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Ella d Curtis. 






f '-''l- 











VOL. Ill 





All A' to /lis Rescfvect 








1,— letty's troubles 
















J 12 




XIII. -pottin(;er's search begins .... 
XIV. — A madman's delusion . . 






XXII.- A madman's RRVENGE 










letty's troubles. 

"Well, my dear, It seems a long time since 
you paid me a visit," said little Miss Masham, 
as she ran to meet and welcome Letty, who 
unexpectedly appeared just before luncheon. 
" Have you come to spend the day with me ? 
That Is good of you. It Is ages since we had 
a gossip." 

" I am afraid I am getting lazy," Letty 
answered. " Every day for the last week, I 
y^ VOL. in. B 



said, ' I am going to lunch at the Rosary ;' 
but I never appear, as you know." 

'' You cannot tear yourself away from the 
fascinating Mrs. John, that is the truth !" said 
Miss Masham, with a comical look. " Let 
me see — how long is it since she came ?" 

*' Exactly a month," replied Letty, "and it 
seems to me like years. Never since I can 
remember have the days seemed so long. 
And yet I do nothing. I have no time to 
read — at least I do not read, and I never 
touch the piano, I cannot settle down com- 
fortably to anything I seem to myself to be 
in a state of constant irritation." 

"My poor dear child! You look rather 
worried. Do you not get on well with her ?" 

" Oh, yes ; 1 get on well enough, because I 
vowed I would not quarrel, for it would vex 
papa. But it is hard," and tears came into 
the speakers eyes, "to see him so absorbed 
by that woman ! He does not seem to 
remember my existence at times ; and I get 


SO depressed and lonely ! — and I am afraid 
rather ill-tempered too, now and then." 

'' She certainly has contrived to make 
herself indispensable to 'dearest Sir John,'" 
laughed Miss Masham. 

*' Indispensable! I should think so." cried 
Letty. " He is perfectly bewitched by her! 
I could not have believed it if I had not seen 
it. I never ventured in my most spoiled and 
petted days to say and do the things she says 
and does with impunity. You know Joan, 
that housemaid who has been at the Chase 
for so long ? For some reason or other, 
Amy took a dislike to her, and papa told the 
housekeeper yesterday to give her warning. 
Aunt Louise and I are so sorry. And, you 
know, she said that Jacky's nurse was to 
act as her maid ! But not a bit of it ; she 
borrows Aunt Louise's so often that poor 
auntie has, I may say, given her up alto- 
gether. I mean to speak about that ; I do 
not think papa would allow it if he knew." 


'' Don't you wish she would get tired of 
the Chase, and go away ?" 

" Oh, she will not do that ! She has got 
papa to alter her rooms according to her 
taste; and very bad taste it is, in my opinion; 
— but, perhaps I am prejudiced. The poor 
dear man has gone to such trouble and ex- 
pense about it all ; but no one is allowed 
to speak about that, and the way she 
wheedles things out of him is too barefaced." 

" We must remember that she is your 
brother's widow, and a very pretty woman 

" Yes ; she is Jack's widow, certainly ; but, 
as to the prettiness, it is a matter of opinion, 
like her taste. I do not admire her. She 
has what I call a cruel face." 

" Perhaps so ; but it is very handsome. 
Her eyes are beautiful." 

*'You should see the way they glitter 
sometimes when auntie makes a remark she 
does not like. I do not care about her veiled 


insolence to me, but I cannot bear it to 
Aunt Louise ! Do you know, she has taken 
auntie's place at the head of the table ! I 
cannot forgive papa for allowing such a slight 
to be put upon her. And he shows Amv 
all his letters, and consults her upon business 
matters. Every morning after breakfast — 
she never comes down, you know — he goes 
up to her room for an hour, and talks to her 
about the most private family affairs." 

" Does she never appear at breakfast ?" 

"• Never. ' I always spent the morning in 
my room at Sorrento.' How tired I am of 
Sorrento, and what she did there." 

*'And about the child? Is she fond of 
him ?" 

'' Not particularly, I think. She pets and 
fondles him before papa, but I have seen her 
slapping him until he screamed. The other 
day I happened to go into the day nursery, 
and there she was, looking like a fury, and 
threatening to whip the poor little fellow for 


having broken some trumpery toy she bought 
for him in the town. She did not look pretty 
then, I assure you. The poor Httle mite held 
out his arms and ran to me, and that made 
her more angry still." 

'' What did she do ?" 

"Oh! she carried him off into the nursery, 
and I suppose she punished him there, for I 
heard him crying piteously as I went down- 
stairs. She is a heartless, selfish creature." 

" Did you tell your father? He would not 
like poor little Jacky to be flogged, I am 

** Yes, I told him ; but he said he was sure 
Amy could be trusted to do what was right 
by her own child ; that he had perfect con- 
fidence in her judgment ; so there I left 

''Do you know you are looking ill and 
worried, Letty ? You will lose your good 
looks, child, if you do not take care, and then 
what will — people say ?" 


" No one cares very much how I look," 
said Letty, sadly. "Oh, Miss jNIasham, if I 
had not been a vain fool, what a happy home 
I might have had now with my husband, for 
he did care for me when we married." 

"And he probably cares now." 

"Oh, no! Not now," Letty repeated. 
"There is someone he likes better. Not 
that I want him to care for me," she added. 
"Do not imagine that; but, of course, I 
cannot help seeing now how foolish I was to 
behave as I did, and a man like Mr. Otway 
is not likely to forget or forgive such conduct. 
I used to think he had no spirit, but I found 
out my mistake." 

"And you like him all the better for it," 
put in Miss Masham. 

** There is no question of liking between 
us," answered Letty, decidedly. " But I do 
want to find out what is best for his happi- 
ness. He may want to marry some other 


*' Then the best thing you can do Is to ask 
him, my dear." 

''Not for the world!" cried Letty. "Let 
him speak." 

" I have no doubt he will in time," said 
Miss Masham. " But I confess he is longer 
making up his mind than I expected. By the 
way, your aunt told me he was coming down 
to be introduced to Mrs. John. Is that so?" 

'' Yes, early next week ; and you have no 
idea how much I dread seeing him before 
her ! She threatens to make love to him 
herself; to force us, or ridicule us, into recon- 
ciliation ; so you may imagine what I shall 
have to go through ! And she can say such 
ill-bred things when she is not on her guard. 
She never lets papa hear them, but she is less 
particular before auntie and I. She called 
that poor little child such an ugly name the 
other day, and when I said * Why do you say 
that, Amy?' she said, ' Oh, for fun, of course.' 
I was dreadfully shocked !" 


''That reminds me — I always forget to 
ask — she has seen Mrs. Murray's foundHng, 
I suppose? Has she recognised him as 
Rossitur's child ?" 

'' No ; she says she cannot be certain ; but 
I cannot help thinking that he recognised 
her. He stretched out his arms to her the 
moment he saw her, and said " Gib Dacky ;" 
but Mary Murray declares he says it to 
everyone! It is rather odd, too, when he 
sees the gardener he calls out, ' Pot ! Dacky 
go to Pot !' They make quite a joke of his 
'going to Pot' at the Rectory. But, if he 
is little George Pottinger, why does he call 
himself Dacky ?" 

" It may not mean his name." 

" But I think it must mean it, for that is 
what our little Jacky called himself the other 

"And does Mrs. John know nothing of 
Mrs. Pottinger?" 

" She said, yesterday I think it was, she 


had heard privately that Rossltur was Hving 
in Great Centre Bridge, and she meant to go 
over some day — I am not sure that she was 
not going to-day — to see if she could find 
her. But why should she be in Great 
Centre Bridge when her people live in 
Stillingfort ?" 

'' But is not her father dead ?" 

*'Yes; he died quite suddenly about a 
fortnight after young Charles Rossitur and 
his wife sailed for Australia. I am so glad 
that poor fellow is over his troubles. Then 
Alice, the other sister, married the eldest son 
of Lord Stillingfort's steward, and she and he 
keep on the farm. Dr. Murray told all this 
to me, and he has ascertained that Bella 
Rossitur has never been to Stillingfort. And 
now I must go. Can I drive you into town ? 
I am happy .to say that I have my dear ' Fire 
and Smoke' still. The only thing that papa 
will not allow Amy to interfere in is the 
stable. He has his own way there. She 


actually wanted him to put down auntie's 
basket carriage, on the score of expense." 

As the two ladies were driving through 
the High Street, Letty suddenly exclaimed, 
"Why; there is Amy alone in a railway-fly; 
I wonder where she has been." 

'' Perhaps to Great Centre Bridge, to look 
after Rossitur," said Miss Masham ; "you said 
she was thinking of going to-day. How 
handsome she is looking ! You cannot deny 
it, Letty ; she is a beautiful woman." 



That same afternoon, Walter Duncombe, 
of whom passing mention has already been 
made In this story, was lunching alone at the 
Hermitage. He had come Into possession 
of the beautiful old house and fine property 
upon the death of his eccentric and not very 
reputable old uncle; but, with the exception 
of a flying visit occasionally, Stoneshire had 
seen nothing of him ; now, however, he had 
made up his mind to settle permanently In the 
county — to become known, and popular if 
possible, among the country gentry — to enter- 
tain, and be entertained, and, in due time, to 

It may here be mentioned that the Her- 


mitage was the principal place, and the 
Duncombes were the principal people in 
Great Centre Bridge, as the Chase was the 
principal place, and the Erskines the prin- 
cipal people of the smaller town. 

Walter was a handsome dark man, tall and 
well-made, but somehow horsey and fast- 
looking — but all the Duncombes were the 
same ; he had not introduced the traits into 
the family. He was not more than five-and- 
thirty, but in appearance he was ten years 
older ; a man who not only knew a great deal 
about the seamy side of life, but enjoyed his 
knowledge, and would be in no way averse 
to add to it if opportunity offered. 

He did not look forward with very great 
pleasure to the life of a country gentleman ; 
he was aware that, before all things, he must 
be respectable if he wished to be tolerated 
and received as an inmate, or even as an ac- 
quaintance, at the houses of his neighbours ^ 
and to be respectable was to be dull. His 


uncle had not been respectable, and he was 
not noticed by anyone ; but then of late years, 
owing to ill health and moroseness of temper, 
the old man's life had been as dull as if he 
had been a pattern of all the virtues all his 

But in spite of his dread of the dulness of 
ultra respectability, Walter Duncombe had in 
his heart an unexpressed desire so to live and 
conduct himself that the somewhat tarnished 
name he bore might shine out with fresh 
lustre ; and many and many a time he said 
to himself, " Everything depends upon the 
woman I marry." 

And how often during the past ten years 
he had been on the brink of marriaofe with a 
woman who would drag him down instead of 
raising him, no one knew as well as he him- 
self. He had unfeignedly rejoiced over his 
many deliverances except on one occasion, 
when Jack Erskine interfered to prevent his 
marriage with Bella Rossitur, who was, at 


the time, lady's maid to the beautiful Amy 
Gordon, to whom Erskine was enofaofed, 
Walter called himself an ill-used man. 

Never before nor since had he seen a 
woman like Bella in any rank of life. Some- 
thing in her to which he could not give a 
name, over and above her mere physical 
beauty, had attracted him ; she had so much 
"go;" such pluck and determination; and 
yet, in spite of it all, she had allowed herself 
to be persuaded or bullied into marrying a 
common soldier ! True, she was engaged to 
him before she left England, but what of 
that ? Walter never understood how she 
had been talked into becoming George 
Pottinger's wife ; he might have found out 
if he had not been so angry that he actually 
went out of his way to avoid a meeting 
with her by starting for England on sick 
leave ; and, before the time came for him to 
go back to India, his uncle died, and he left 
the service without delay. 


She must have been told by some meddling 
fool — Jack Ersklne, perhaps — that his in- 
tentions were not honourable ; and as she 
was not quite without foundation for any 
doubts of him that may have existed in her 
own mind, she was perhaps too strongly 
tempted to resist the pressure that was put 
upon her. 

The episode in his Indian life connecting 
him with Bella Rossitur had been brought 
back to his mind by a rumour that reached 
him of Mrs. John Erskine's arrival at the 
Chase. He had heard of young John's 
death at Simla, but not of Pottinger's in- 
insanity ; so he did not know whether 
Rossitur had accompanied her mistress to 
England or remained in India with her 
husband. If the latter, so much the better 
perhaps ; but the chances were that Mrs. 
Erskine would not part with her. If that 
were the case he might see her any day, 
and then — why, then he was Buncombe of 


the Hermitage, and there could not be any 
renewal of the old friendship and familiar 
intercourse between him and Mrs. John 
Erskine's maid. But he must find out if she 
was at the Chase ; the knowledge might 
prove useful. 

He was waited on at luncheon by the 
venerable butler who had been for years his 
uncle's '' factotttm,'' and who was likely to 
hold office at the Hermitage as long as he 

'' Has anyone called lately, Ellis ?" Dun- 
combe asked. ''It was announced in the 
StonesJiire Me7'cicry a fortnight ago that I 
had taken up my residence here, and some- 
one may have looked me up on the strength 
of it." 

" I left some cards on the library table," 
Ellis answered, "and Sir John Erskine rode 
over the day before yesterday, and said he 
would come another day soon." 

"Anyone with him, Ellis?" 

VOL. in. G 


"No, sir ; ' he was alone. He is looking 
very well now, Sir John is. He took the 
Captain's death terribly to heart, but he's 
getting over it now. He says to me, ' Ellis, 
we must keep Mr. Duncombe at home now ; 
it's a pity this fine place should be standing 
empty.' " 

'' Perhaps he would not enjoy being alone 
in these big rooms himself," Duncombe 
replied, with a laugh, ''and he. may not like 
all my friends when he sees them. By the 
way, Ellis, is Mrs. John Erskine at the 
Chase now ? The poor Captain's widow. I 
used to know her out in India." 

" Oh, yes, sir ! She's there now," Ellis 
replied, delighted to have some news to tell. 
'' She came with her little boy — the heir he is 
now — about a month ago ; and people do say 
that Sir John Is very much taken up with her." 

'' Have you seen her, Ellis ?'' 

'' No, sir ; but I am told she is a fine 
handsome young woman." 


*' Yes ; she's a pretty woman. Has she 
brought any servants with her, do you 
know ?" 

''I do not know, sir, for certain ; but I 
understand she has her own maid." 

" I must go over and call to-morrow or 
next day." 

'' Her own maid," he said to himself, as 
for amusement after luncheon he set to work 
to examine the condition of some half-dozen 
guns he had taken from their cases and 
put together. "Her own maid! Bella, of 
course. Now, what had I better do ? Ask 
Mrs. John for her boldly, and pretend I have 
forgotten all the circumstances connected 
with her marriage to what's-his-name, the 
soldier ? That will be my wisest course, all 
things considered ; but it will be awkward if 
I stumble upon her anywhere about the 
house or grounds. I could not be cad 
enough to pass her by. And I was fond of 
her in those days. Poor Bella! If she had 


but trusted me I believe she would have been 
Mrs. Duncombe now ! But, perhaps she 
hadn't too much reason, for I kept shilly- 
shallying and hanging back, and women in 
her place don't like that sort of thing. I wish 
I hadn't come home just now. I want to be a 
good boy and marry one of the county ladies, 
and keep up the old name if I can ; but if I 
see her again I am just as likely as not to 
make a fool of myself! I believe I would 
marry her to-morrow if she were a widow. 
So I hope with all my heart, the husband — 
Pottinger, that's his name — is alive and well. 
Bella Pottinger! What a combination ! And 
how she hated the fellow ! She had a temper 
of her own, too ! I think I must ask Mrs. 
John how she is if only to make sure that she 
is at the Chase. She may be in India with 
Pottinger and the regiment. Poor Bella ! 
How she cried the last time we met. I 
should like to see her once more just to tell 
her that she need not have believed every- 


thing Jack Erskine said about me ; and I 

liked her Well, Ellis, what is it ? 

Anyone called ?" 

'' Well, no, sir ; not exactly. None of the 
gentry, if you please, sir." 

" Some of the townsfolk — eh ?" 

'* No, sir. It's only a young person — that 
Is, sir, I mean, a young lady — who wishes to 
see you for five minutes on business." 

" A young lady ! What sort of a young 
lady, Ellis?" 

'' That is just what I can't make out, sir. 
She speaks just like a lady, but then " 

" Young ladles In these parts do not call 
upon young gentlemen, I understand ? Very 
proper, too. Just go and find out her name, 
Ellis, will you ? No, don't do that ; show 
her into the library and say I am coming. I 
must just wash my hands. I daresay she 
has come for a subscription," he added, as 
Ellis left the gunroom. "Well; if she's a 
pretty girl I'll give her a fat cheque. If 


not, a couple of sovs. will do. Now then.'* 
He went up the long stone passage that led 
from the gunroom to the great hall, whistling 
a tune. The woman who was waiting for 
him In the library heard him the moment he 
came through the swing-door at the end of 
the passage, and, with a rapid turn of her 
hand, she threw back the thick veil that hid 
her face ; then she stood still and waited. 

The whistling ceased as Duncombe's hand 
touched the handle of the door ; it turned 
and he came in saying, '' I beg your pardon 
for keeping " 

But the apology was never finished. The 
next words that passed his lips were — 

" In the name of all that's wonderful, Bella 
Rossltur, Is It you ?" 

'' Mrs. Pottinger, If you please, sir," Rossl- 
tur answered, as she dropped a little curtsey. 



Bewildered by the sudden and wholly 
unexpected appearance of the woman of 
whom he had been thinking more or less 
all the morning, Walter Duncombe, after 
his first exclamation of surprise and her 
reply, remained silent, gazing at her. She, 
on her part, looked earnestly, even gravely, 
at him; and, by the flush on her cheeks and 
the glitter of her eyes, it could be seen 
that she was labouring under great excite- 

" I was never more surprised in all my 
life!" Duncombe said, at last. "But won't 
you shake hands, Bella? What do you 
mean by dropping your curtsey to me ?" 


** Because I am only a servant," she 
replied, "and you are a gentleman." 

" Servant — gentleman !" he repeated. " It 
was not so In the old days In Calcutta, Bella ; 
but perhaps you do not care to speak of them." 

" I did not come here to speak of them," 
she answered, quickly. " It is better not 
even to think of them. No good can come 
of it now." 

''That is Impossible," he replied, quickly, 
in his turn. " I was thinking of them and of 
you, when I was told a lady had called to see 
me. You come from the Chase, of course. 
How did you manage It ? Does Mrs. Ersklne 
know ?'' 

Rossltur smiled. '' I have nothing to do 
with Mrs. Ersklne now. I left her at 
Sorrento ; she knows nothing of me, and I 
do not wish her to know." 

'' But she is at the Chase, I hear." 

''Yes; she is there with her little boy. 
Are you not going to see her ?" 


" I must call, I suppose. But now that I 
know you are no longer with her I am in no 
hurry. I was wondering if I should see you 
when I went over." 

"You will not hear much in my favour 
from Mrs. John," answered Rossitur, quietly, 
as she fixed her eyes upon his face. 

*' Indeed ! Is that so? I am glad you 
told me. What do you wish me to do under 
those circumstances, Bella ?" And, as he 
spoke, he tried to take her hand, but she 
would not let him. 

'' Under those circumstances it is as well 
that you should know no good of me 

"All right! I'll abuse you up hill and 
down dale if you like ; and with all the more 
venom if you tell me where you live and 
allow me to see you sometimes." 

" I came here to give you my address," 
she said, "but I do not wish to be known 
at the Chase, of course. I came to tell 


you more than my address," she added, 
significantly. " I suppose I can trust you?" 

*' What reason have I ever given you to 
doubt me, Bella?" 

'' What reason ?" she echoed, with a touch 
of bitterness. " Every reason ; and yet I 
am going to trust you more fully now, at 
least in one way, than I did in the old days 
we both remember. Did you not leave me 
to marry a man I hated, and that, too, after 
you swore I should be your wife ?" 

" And I meant that you should. I could 
not marry you at once, but I swear to you 
now I meant to do it ; you know I loved you, 
and I " 

" Do not talk about it now," she inter- 
rupted, again repulsing him as he tried to 
take her hand. ''It may be all true, but I 
have learned not to put much faith in men 
when they talk about love. I came to tell 
you a great secret to - day ; but as soon as 
you know, you will have it in your power 


to betray me, and have me driven out of 

"If you are not betrayed until 1 betray 
you, Bella, you are safe for ever. Shall I 
swear it ?" 

*' No, your word is enough ; and if you 
play me false I cannot help it." Then she 
rose suddenly. 

'' What !" he cried. " You are not going ? 
I thought you were going to confide in me 

''Yes," she said, ''but not here. I never 
speak within four walls if I can help it. The 
last time we met in Calcutta our conversation 
was overheard, so I am cautious now. I 
am going to walk to Great Centre Bridge 
station," she added, as she pulled down her 
thick veil, "and if you come with me part of 
the way I can talk to you without fear of 
being overheard. No one knows me about 
here, and you need not come into the town." 

" You must arrange it as you like," he said. 


*' If you think it better for us not to be seen 
together so be it. Shall v/e start now .^" 

He picked up a soft hat as they passed 
through the hall, and they went out of the 
house together. At the end of about twenty 
minutes they might have been seen standing 
at a gate which led from a plantation to the 
high road not a hundred yards from one of 
the Great Centre Bridge railway stations. 
It was the station of what was known as the 
local line. 

He was holding her hand, for they were 
about to say good-bye. '' You may trust me, 
Bella," he was saying, ''but I have already 
given you my word. I am even ready to 
abuse you most cordially to Mrs. John 
Erskine if you think well of It !" and as he 
spoke he burst out laughing. "It Is a joke to 
arrange it all with you beforehand." 

*' Say anything except that you have seen 
me. Or stay ; you may say you caught a 
glimpse of me one day in Great Centre 


Bridge, and that I disappeared suddenly. 
And be sure you say I had my little boy 
with me ; that is very important." 

" All right ; he is able to walk, I suppose. 
Do you know, Bella ?" he added, suddenly. 
" I am awfully shocked to hear that poor 
beggar is in a mad house." 

" My husband ? The worst of it is, that 
he may get better, you know ; for when he is 
at large again, the real danger begins. If he 
finds "out where I am, lie will not hold his 

'' But remember," and Duncombe put his 
left hand on her shoulder while, with his 
right, he held hers tightly as in a vice. 
" No one is bound to believe what a mad- 
man, or a man who has once been mad, says. 
He may be under a delusion akuays, may he 
not ?" 

A sudden light came into Rossitur's eyes,, 
and she looked as if she had heard the solu- 
tion of a difficult puzzle. '' I never thought 


of that," she said. " A delusion ! That is it, 
of course. But he may not think of coming 
here to look for me ; he will not, unless he 
hears that Mrs. John is at home. Now I 
must go. Good-bye." 

'' But not for long, Bella," he pleaded. " I 
must have some compensation, remember, 
if I speak ill-naturedly of you to Mrs. Erskine. 
I must see you in this way — alone." 

" Leave it all to me," she said, '' I am 
good at expedients. But I cannot come 
here ; you must come to me." 

'' Willingly, Bella. At any hour, morning, 
noon or night, I am at your service. Good- 

'' I have played my most risky card and 
won with it," said Rossitur to herself, as she 
passed into the Great Centre Bridge station 

" Has Mrs. John Erskine come in ?" said 
Miss Lambton to the servant who brought 


in afternoon tea. Letty and Miss INIasham 
were with her. 

The servant repHed that Mrs. Erskine had 
come in just before Mrs. Otway, and had 
desired him to say that she would be down 
in a few minutes. 

And in a very few minutes she appeared, 
dressed in a becoming tea - gown of soft 
ivory -coloured cashmere, trimmed with cas- 
cades of creamy - looking lace, and pale 
lavender ribbon ; over her pretty fair hair 
she wore a small half-handkerchief of fine 
black lace, fastened with pearl pins. 

''Oh! I am so tired!" she said, as she 
threw herself into a low, soft chair. " Aunt 
Louise, why did you let me go to that horrid 
place by myself?" 

" My dear, you said you must go alone !" 

" Did I ? I know I thought it very unkind 
of neither you nor Letty to offer to come 
with me. I was very plainly dressed, but 
still, people stared." 


" I am very sorry, my dear. But did you 
find Rossltur? Is she there?" 

*' I beheve I found where she Is living 
under a false name. We are talking of my 
former maid," Mrs. John turned to Miss 
Masham to explain. " I heard she was In 
lodgings In Great Centre Bridge, so I went 
to look for her ; I want to find out what she 
Is doing, and If she has her child with her ; 
you know I think that Is her boy Mrs. 
Murray picked up In London." 

" And you did not find her ?" 

" No ; and the lodging-house keeper was 
very odd In her manner, I thought. At first 
she said there was no one In the house called 
Pottinger, but when I said ' Miss Rossltur,' 
she made a confused sort of answer, and I 
could only gather that she had gone out 
about an hour before with a thick veil on. 
But, If she Is there, she has no child with her ; 
of that I am sure." 

''And so you had your journey for no- 


thing," said Miss Lambton. '' Dear me ! 
How very provoking." 

"I do not feel comfortable, somehow," 
Mrs. John continued, " while she is in the 
neighbourhood ; but I think it better not 
to take any more trouble about it, don't 
you. Aunt Louise ? Ah ! here comes dear 
Sir John with the afternoon letters and 
papers. Not any for me, I suppose ?" 

''Yes, there is one from America — from 
your sister, Mrs. Tom Otway. And I have 
a note from Herbert Otway to say he is 
coming down to-morrow for a week if we 
can do with him." 

Mrs. John was reading her letter. " How 
odd !" she said. '' My sister and Tom want 
to know if those two stupid people — meaning 
you, Letty and Herbert — have made it up 
yet. I really must set to work and see 
what I can do." 




Before Otway had been two days at the 
Chase, Letty's life was made so unendurable 
by her sister-in-law's behaviour, that she felt 
as if she could not remain in the house until 
the close of his visit. And it was intolerable, 
too, that he should sit calmly by while Mrs. 
John talked at her, if not to her, and in- 
dulged occasionally in innuendos that were 
neither very kind nor very lady-like. The 
girl knew that It was of very little use to 
complain to her father, for he always took 
Amy's part ; but when at last, goaded beyond 
endurance, she made a passionate appeal to 
him to interfere and to desire Mrs. John to 
give up her persecution, he simply laughed 


at her, and said she ought to be very much 
obliged to Amy for trying to bring her and 
her husband together. 

Poor Letty rushed away in tears to kind 
Miss Lambton for consolation. '' He does 
not care for anyone but Amy !" she sobbed 
out, as she threw herself on the ground and 
hid her flushed face in her aunt's gown, just 
as she used to do in a fit of childish trouble 
when she was a tiny girl. '' I was ashamed 
to tell him that she tries to flirt with Herbert 
before my very eyes ! Do yoic not see, 
Auntie, the way she looks at him, and she is 
always sending for him to go to her in her 
own sitting-room ? Oh, Auntie, if I could but 
go away somewhere ! I used to be so happy, 
and now I am so miserable ! Who is that ?'' 
and she raised her head suddenly. " Some 
one came in, surely." 

"Yes, dear; Mr. Otway ; but he went 
away directly. I dare say he thought we 
wanted to be alone." 


" Oh ! I hope he did not hear what I 
said, or know that I was crying," exclaimed 
Letty. "He will go to her now and triumph 
over me. I feel as If I could kill myself! 
Oh, papa — papa ! to think that you can let 
me be treated in this way by that odious 
woman " 

" Hush ! Hush — my dear child " 

"She is odious, Auntie! She cannot have 
a nice mind or she would not say the things 
she does sometimes." 

" But you are quite wrong, dear, if you 
think Herbert Otway likes her. I know he 
does not." 

*' How do you know ? Did he tell you 

"Well, not exactly; but I gather it from 
something he said." 

" What was it. Auntie } Oh, please, tell 

"It was nothing very particular. He only 
said he could quite understand now how it 


was she had got the reputation of being 
rather fast in India, that is all." 

" Then he must have noticed how she 
talked to Walter Dancombe the evening he 
dined here ; but then they knew one another 
in India before she was married, so I do not 
think much of that." 

" You were not at home this morning 
when Mr. Duncombe called — it was only 
last night he dined here, you know — and 
Amy sent for him to go to her upstairs. He 
was with her for about half-an-hour, and 
when they came down together they were 
in fits of laughter ! Your father was really 
very angry, although he did not say much. 
As soon as Mr. Duncombe went away, he 
told her that he did not think she ought 
to receive visitors, gentlemen especially, in 
her private sitting - room. She was very 
sulky, and said she did not see any harm 

in it." 

' I do not think papa likes Mr, Dun- 


combe ; but did you notice, Auntie, how he 
and Amy talked of that woman Rossitur, last 
night ? Perhaps you were not listening. 
Mr. Buncombe said he saw her the other 
day in Great Centre Bridge with her little 
boy, and Amy said she was sure it was 
Rossitur's little boy Mrs. Murray found at 
Victoria Station, and that if she was in the 
neighbourhood she was up to some mischief. 
Then Mr. Duncombe defended her a little, I 
thought, and so they went on for a long time; 
but it did not seem to me as if either of them 
was in earnest. I wonder if he really saw 
her in Great Centre Bridge, or mistook 
someone for her.'^" 

" Well ; you know Amy went there to look 
for her, but she could not find her ; there is 
something very mysterious about her and her 
child. Don't you think so ?" 

''Yes, very; and I think Mr. Duncombe 
is inclined to fall in love with Amy ! I 
wonder what papa will say to that !" 


" He will not like it. I believe he wishes 
her to remain a widow." 

''And I dare say she will make him 
believe that she does not want to marry 
again. Oh, dear ! how I wish Herbert 
Otway's visit was over ! But I am going 
to drive over presently to the Rosary 
and stay with Miss Masham until he is 

It was useless for Miss Lambton to advise 
and remonstrate. Letty was determined, and 
when the party assembled for dinner it was 
announced by Aunt Louise that Letty had 
driven over to spend a few days with her old 

Otway said nothing. Amy laughed. " You 
do not manage that self-willed daughter of 
yours very well, dearest Sir John," she said, 
in the soft caressing tone she always used 
when she addressed her father-in-law. 

" Louise, you must go over the first thing 
to-morrow and bring her back !" he said. 


angrily. '' I am not going to be treated with 
such disrespect in my own house by a chit of 
a girl !" 

Miss Lambton, however, did not go over 
to the Rosary next morning, but Otway did. 
He was shown into the drawing-room, where 
Letty was seated alone, with an open book 
on her lap. She coloured up when she saw 
him, and the stony expression of indifference, 
if not of dislike, that always pained him so 
deeply, settled on her face. 

'*I am sorry to disturb you at such an 
hour," he said, politely, "but I am glad to 
find you alone, as I want to speak to you on 
a matter of business ; and also, I have to tell 
you that your father wishes you to come 
home at once." 

"Yes, he wishes me to come, but he does 
not want me !" Letty broke in, " and I wish 
to stay here. I am tired. I want to be 
quiet for a few days. There is never any 
peace at home now." 


"The Chase Is certainly altered," Otway 
said. '' I notice It myself." 

*' We live In a sort of whirlwind since Amy 
came !" said Letty. *' There Is no punctuality 
— no regularity! If there were a hundred 
servants In the house she would want all of 
them to wait upon her, and would drive them 
all rnad. And papa Indulges her In every- 
thing ! She does exactly what she likes, and 
what she says Is law. Poor dear auntie Is 
quite a cipher, and as for me " 

''She Is not very nice to you, I must say," 
put In Otway, '' but It would not be hard to 
find a reason for It. 

'' I should not care about her manner to 
me," said poor Letty, with difficulty keeping 
back her tears, "but It Is hard to have papa's 
love taken from me. She Is everything to 
him now. Everything she does Is right ; 
everything she says Is listened to." 

" I confess I am surprised to see the In- 
fluence she has gained In such a very short 


time ; but I suppose he was very much 
attached to your poor brother, and that he 
has transferred the affection he felt for him to 
his widow." 

*' I wish you would tell me what you really 
think of her," said Letty, impulsively, after 
a pause. " I know I am prejudiced. I 
cannot like her !" 

'' I think she is remarkably handsome, but 
I do not particularly admire her. She will 
create quite a sensation when she comes out 
in London, I fancy ; for her beauty is of a 
very uncommon type." 

'' I was not thinking of her beauty," said 
Letty. '' I think myself, sometimes, she is 
lovely ! I want to know what you think of 
her — whether you like her ?" 

'* I do not think she is what one calls 
'thoroughbred,'" he answered, after a 
moment's hesitation. '' She is not vulgar 
in voice or appearance, but I am very much 
mistaken if she is not vulgar in mind, and 


also uneducated. She has a certain amount 
of cleverness just on the surface, but it would 
be very easy to get her out of her depth 
if one were ill-natured enough to try ; but it 
is impossible, you know, to be ill-natured to a 
pretty woman !" 

Naturally, Letty did not see the matter 
from that point of view — she found very little 
difficulty in being ill-natured to Mrs. John — 
so she made no answer. 

" But I did not come here this morning to 
discuss your sister-in-law's charms," Otway 
continued. " I came, literally, to see you on 
business. I emphasize the word lest you 
should misunderstand me in any way, and I 
am particularly anxious to make my meaning 
perfectly clear. It will make it the more easy 
for you to consider dispassionately the pro- 
posal I am about to make, and I hope you 
believe me when I say that I should be 
very sorry to give you unnecessary pain or 


Letty's cheeks grew very white, and her 
heart for a second seemed to stop beating ; 
then it gave a great throb, and the blood 
rushed again to her pale face. Had it come, 
then, at last ? Was he going to tell her that 
he was about to take steps to have their 
marriage dissolved ? 

'' You are very kind," she murmured, in 
a husky whisper, and he went on in a 
calm business-like tone and unembarrassed 
manner : — 

" I think you are aware that when I 
married I gave up my ' flat ' in Victoria 
Street, and took a house in Rutland Gate. 
It is a large house ; too large for a married 
bachelor, if I may call myself so. I go out a 
great deal, and I am anxious to make some 
return to my friends for the hospitality I 
receive ; but I cannot entertain properly, or 
pleasantly either, without a lady to take the 
head of my table and to do the honours. 
Besides, I want to be able to ask ladies to 


Stay with me if I wish. Now, what I came 
to propose to you is this — and I must again 
ask you to remember that the arrangement is 
purely one of business ; duty has hardly any 
place in it, and affection need not be named, 
as it does not exist. I propose that as you 
are legally the mistress of my house, you 
should come and take that position at Rut- 
land Gate. I want you to be good enough to 
send out invitations for me ; to receive my 
guests for me and with me ; to sit at the 
head of my table, and to appear with me 
sometimes in public. I promise you absolute 
control over everything, and absolute free- 
dom. If I ask you to do anything you 
dislike by all means refuse to do it, and you 
need not give me any reason. In the same 
way I am to do as I like without question. 
You are fond of the theatre and the opera ; 
you can go to both as often as you please, 
and you can have any amount of pretty 
gowns ; and if you will allow me sometimes 


to ride or drive out with you, it will make a 
good impression. I think you will be happier 
in some respects than you are here, for I can 
see that your sister-in-law does not make 
things very pleasant for you ; but in London 
I think you will find life agreeable, and I 
shall do my best to make it so ; that is if I 
find it possible, without intruding myself per- 
sonally too much upon you. I know a great 
many people who are worth knowing. May 
I hope for your consent to this little plan of 
mine for mutual accommodation ?" 

During this somewhat long explanation, 
Letty's feelings went under a complete 
change ! She passed so rapidly from misery 
to happiness that she was now half-afraid to 
look up lest he should read her heart. To 
be near him — to see him every day! With 
so much happiness she could bear to be un- 
loved ! She could love on in secret, and 
some day, perhaps, when she was an old, old 
woman — she forgot that he would be an old, 


old man — and there was no further need for 
pride, she might tell him what he had been 
to her for so many years. And above all, 
she had now the certainty that, although he 
was perfectly Indifferent to her, he did not 
want to get rid of her in order to marry 
again ! He wished her to be the mistress of 
his house. 

Her silence seemed long, but as she 
was looking down he could feast his eyes 
upon her sweet thoughtful face. " I am 
afraid " he began at last. 

Then she raised her eyes and looked at 
him, and without a trace of emotion or 
excitement, answered quietly, '' I think your 
plan is a very good one, and I am ready to 
go to Rutland Gate at any time you name." 

''Thank you, very much; the sooner the 
better. Hoping for your consent, I ventured 
to have a suite of rooms specially prepared 
for your reception ; so, if you like, you can 
come up to town with me. And now I must 


go ; I may tell Sir John you will be home 
to-day, I suppose ?" 

And he was gone before she could say 
another word. 



" I QUITE understand, my dear ; you need not 
take so much trouble to explain it all. It is 
a purely business arrangement. In fact, you 
rather dislike one another than otherwise." 
That was what Miss Masham said when 
Letty told her what Otway had come over to 

"He was most careful to impress upon me 
that it was simply for mutual accommodation ; 
he suggested the plan ; he sees I am not very 
happy at home now ; he wants to entertain 
ladies, and that he cannot do unless the house 
has a mistress." 

" Quite so, my dear. I understand per- 
fectly. You are to make yourself agreeable 

^'^^' ^^^' U^^IRS1TY OFiLL!r:c 



to his lady friends, and I have no doubt you 
will acquit yourself admirably. It will be 
very easy for you to make the house pleasant 
for women, because, no matter how attentive 
and devoted he is to any one of the charming 
creatures who come to your parties, you will 
not be jealous. And if you should take it 
into your head to set up little flirtations 
on your own account, he will not feel 
aggrieved. Decidedly, I think this ' mutual 
accommodation ' is much better than being 

in love and married in the common ordinary 

way ! 

" I like it much better," said Letty, 
decidedly. '' He is to do as he likes, 
and I am to do as I like." 

*' How delightful ! Why, my dear, you 
will set the fashion ! Marriage on the 
mutual accommodation system, which means 
liberty of action and no questions asked, 
will be the rage presently. I am curious 
to see how it works ; but you must take 


great care not to fall in love or It will 
spoil everything ! I suppose there is no 
fear of that ; he has got over his little 
weakness for you, and you never had a 
weakness for him, so there is no reason 
why you should not keep comfortably In- 

'' We are quite sure to do that," Letty 
remarked. She was so ridiculously happy 
she could scarcely keep her lips from echoing 
the merry song her heart was singing. Miss 
Masham noticed the light In her eyes, and 
the glow on her cheeks, and she mentally 
wished the mutual accommodation ''good 

'' They will soon find one another out 
when they are together every day," she 
said to herself. " But, dear me ! the man 
Is as blind as a mole not to see that she 
cares for him." 

And Otway was blind ; or rather, he was 
perhaps afraid to believe that he saw. No- 


thing Letty said, or seemed capable of saying, 
could efface from his memory what she had 
said on their wedding-day. As often as he 
made up his mind to try again, that miserable 
quarter-of-an-hour In the drawing-room of 
the cottage at Richmond came back to him, 
and he checked his ardour by the question, 
" What proof have I that she likes me better 
now : 

But the longing to have her near him, to 
be able to show her to an admiring world as 
his own, although in heart and in actual life 
they were still estranged, grew too strong 
to be resisted ; and when he saw how un- 
happy she was made by the presence of her 
sister-in-law at the Chase, he ventured to 
ground his proposal upon her altered life at 
home, as well as upon his need for a mistress 
at Rutland Gate. 

When he told Sir John that he and Letty 
had made up their minds to live together, the 
old man said, '' Come to your senses at last, 


have you ? I'm sure I am very glad, for 
Letty's temper hasn't Improved of late, and 
she makes everyone, and especially poor dear 
Amy — who has the temper of an angel, I 
must say — very uncomfortable !" 

Then he kissed his daughter when she 
came back from the Rosary, and told her to 
be a good girl, and In that prosaic fashion the 
old home life came to an end. 

Mrs. John took all the credit to herself. 
*' If I had not just laughed at them and 
bullied them as I did, they would have gone 
on as they were until doomsday ! Don't talk 
nonsense to me about your business arrange- 
ments, Letty. Herbert Otway Is not a fool, 
if you are," and with this refined and sister- 
like little speech Letty took care the con- 
versation should end. 

Aunt Louise cried bitterly at the thought 
of parting with her darling. " But I am 
glad you are going," she said, "very glad I 
am sure he will make you happy. Oh, 


yes, I know all about that," she added, as 
Letty began to explain, for the hundredth 
time, that it was not for happiness, but 
''accommodation," the arrangement had been 
made. " But I like to believe in my own 

And so it was that the two principals 
alone had faith in their own complete in- 

It was a very strange experience to Letty 
to pack up all her little treasures, her books 
and music, and to leave the Chase with 
Otway. She could scarcely believe that she 
was really going to make his house her home, 
even when she found herself alone with him 
in the railway-carriage, and listened to him 
as he talked to her of how they were to set 
about this new life of theirs. He suggested 
that she should send out '' at home" cards, 
"as if you had just come to town from your 
wedding-tour," he said, with a little laugh. 
"It is much better to treat the affair in a 


matter of fact, business-like manner. Do 
you not think so ?" 

Letty said she was quite of that opinion. 

''And you had better be presented at the 
next Drawing-room," he went on. ''I do not 
care much for these Court functions myself, 
but, as you were presented as Miss Erskine, 
you had better appear a second time as Mrs. 
Herbert Otway. As soon as people know 
you are in town, the only thing you will 
have to do is to keep your engagements from 
clashing. By-the-bye, I think you would do 
well to be at home one evening in the week ; 
we will send out cards to everyone we know, 
and those who wish to come will come. My 
friends are chiefly among the literary and 
the legal set ; I do not know many of the 
'heavy swells,' but I assure you my set is 
a very agreeable one. There is one friend 
of mine," he continued, after a pause, " a 
very old friend, who will be sure to call 
upon you the moment she hears you are in 


town. I think you know her by name — 
Mrs. Ogilvey." 

" Do you wish me to be her friend ?" Letty 
asked, coldly. 

'* By no means, my dear child !" Otway 
answered, briskly. " On the contrary, I do 
not wish you to be more than civil to her. 
She will probably try to be Intimate, but I 
think there are many people you will prefer 
to her." 

The mention of Mrs. Ogllvey's name 
brought the first cloud over Letty's satisfac- 
tion in the arrangement for mutual accom- 
modation ; but she would not allow herself 
to dwell upon It. 

Otway's carriage came to meet them at 
Victoria, but Letty drove in it alone to 
Rutland Gate. Otway took a hansom, and 
he was at the house before her. His manner 
had already grown colder and more formal, 
and Letty, quick to notice the change, grew 
cold and formal also. He took her to the 


drawing-rooms and said he hoped she would 
like the furniture and decorations ; and in- 
deed to find fault with either was impossible. 
Letty thought she had never seen prettier 

'' I dine out to-day," Otway said, he did 
not give her much time to inspect her new 
kingdom, "and I have an evening engage- 
ment also ; but I shall be home for half-an- 
hour about ten o'clock, if you will allow me 
to see you for a few minutes." Then he rang 
the bell. " The housekeeper will take you 
to your own rooms," he said, as if to ex- 
plain the action, " and be good enough to 
remember that you are the mistress of the 
house. Give what orders you like without 
any reference to me." 

As the housekeeper came into the room, 
he left it and went downstairs. 

The same night, at a few minutes before 
ten, he let himself in with his latch-key, and 
as soon as he had read one or two letters that 


were waiting for him, he went upstairs. He 
was more excited than he knew, or even sus- 
pected, at the thought that Letty was In the 
long-unused rooms he had prepared for her 
with such pride before his marriage, and 
probably expecting him. He must keep a 
strict guard over himself, and not give her 
the poor triumph of discovering that love for 
her was still. In spite of all his boasting, the 
ruling passion of his heart ! He had done 
his very best to conquer it ; he had even 
tried to devote himself to another woman, 
but every effort to subdue the flame seemed 
to make it burn more fiercely. ''If she were 
but kind to me without loving me," he 
thought, '• It would be less hard. But then 
it would be the old story over again. I am 
such a fool about her that if I once give way 
she will despise me even more than she does 
now ; and I gave her too much cause before. 
No, I must be a man, not a milk-sop ; but I 
know if I see her admired by other men, and 


if it gets known that ours is a true marriage 
of convenience, she will be beset by " 

He was at the top of the stairs by that 
time, and just about to open the drawing- 
room door, when he heard a merry peal of 
laughter within. That was Letty's laugh, 
and he had not heard such a joyous ring in it 
since her marriage. Indeed, he was not 
sure that he had heard her laugh since she 
became his wife. Following the laugh came 
her voice ; she was speaking to someone, and 
that someone was a man. 

Otway frowned. He had told her to do 
as she liked, and here, on the very first 
evening she had a visitor. How long had 
he been there, and who was he ? Had she 
written to him to say she was coming to 
town? If so, the fellow had not lost much 
time. But he was not going to leave him 
there ; if he could not turn him out he could 
at least make a third. 

Again Letty laughed joyously, and her 


companion joined. They were at the height 
of their merriment when Otway opened the 
door and walked in. Letty, in a becoming 
evening dress of soft black stuff which 
harmonized to perfection with her beautiful 
pure complexion and bright eyes, was seated 
opposite to a young man who also wore 
evening clothes. Never had she looked 
more bewitchingly pretty ; more perfectly 
happy ; more entirely at her ease. 

She rose when Otway came in ; her 
companion rose also, and went forward with 
hand outstretched ; but Otway seemed little 
disposed to take it. 

'' Don't you remember Arthur Filmer ?" 
Letty said. 



Being a gentleman and In his own house, 
Otway was obliged to be civil, and to stifle 
his desire to turn the Intruder out. It was 
not very satisfactory to come back expecting 
to find the partner of his mutual accommo- 
dation arrangement alone, and perhaps a 
little lonely and depressed with the strange- 
ness of her situation, and to be greeted 
Instead with peals of girlish laughter. And 
then to find her charmingly dressed, just as 
if she expected a visitor, and quite at home ; 
entertaining Arthur Filmer, of all people In 
the world ! 

Otway had not any motive in hurrying 
away so early from Mrs. Ogilvey's dinner- 


party, for of course, Letty did not want 
him, or expect him, or care if she never 
saw him again. He had had too many 
proofs of her utter indifference, if not of her 
dislike ; but still, it was galling, to say the 
least of it, to find her so happy with '' that 
cub !*' 

That was what he called poor Arthur in 
his mind ; but his greeting of the unconscious 
•offender was cordial enough. '' Why, FIl- 
nier, old man ! Where did you drop from ? 
It's an age since I saw you." 

'' Not since your wedding-day," Filmer 
was about to add, but stopped short. ''No, 
not for ages. I haven't been much in 
England. I got a staff appointment in 
Malta, and I am now on my way to Ire- 
land, to enter upon one there ; but I am 
coming back on leave in a week or two to 
do a bit of the season, and amuse myself, 
before I pay my own people a visit in the 
south. I called on the chance of finding 


you In this afternoon, and Mrs. Otway was 
kind enough to ask me to come back to 
dinner, and here I am. She said you would 
be In about ten." 

*' And here I am," said Otway. " Mrs. 
Otway and I came up from Stoneshire this 
afternoon. Did she tell you T' 

'* Oh, yes ! I heard all the news. I did 
not know that Mrs. John had arrived. She 
seems ' all there,' but I cannot Imagine her 
without the great Rossltur. The maid always 
over-shadowed the mistress, we used to say. 
Never was I so surprised in all my life as to 
hear the woman had left." 

*' I do not think Arthur quite believes that 
she is gone," said Letty. 

*' Arthur !" She called the fellow by his 
Christian name, while he, her husband, was 
'* Mr. Otway." " Are you going down to the 
Chase to see them all ?" he inquired. 

** Well, no ; I think not. You see, Mrs. 
Otway being In town, I have no particular 


inducement. Mrs. John and I never hit It 
off, somehow. I beHeve I offended her 
mortally by being the first to discover, or to 
speak of, the likeness between her and this 
same Rossitur. Haven't you noticed it, Mrs. 
Otway ? Oh, I forgot ! You have not seen 
the maid. I caught her out in her young 
mistress's togs one night — that was before 
poor old Jack's marriage — and I pretended 
to take her for Miss Gordon. The old 
Colonel found us, and he thought his pretty 
daughter was without a chaperon. There 
was no end of a row, I can tell you. I was 
only about twenty then." 

'' She seems to have been a larky kind of 
person for a young lady's maid," said Otway, 
stiffly. " Letty, you look rather tired ; I am 
sure Filmer will excuse you. I am going to 
a ball at the RIdleys', In Palace Gate," he 
added, addressing Arthur. '' Can I drop 
you anywhere ?" 

'' I have a card for the RIdleys', too, and I 


suppose I had better go if you are going. 
Aren't you coming, Mrs. Otway ?" 

" No. No one knows I am in town yet. 
I hope you will enjoy yourselves. Good- 
night." She shook hands with Filmer, gave 
Otway a friendly little nod and disappeared. 

It was nearly the end of April when Letty 
came to town, and by the end of May she 
was fairly launched on the gay waters of the 
London season, and the astonishment caused 
by her sudden appearance had altogether 
died out. Even the most intimate of her 
husband's friends were too preoccupied with 
their own affairs to interest themselves about 
the husband and wife who, on account of 
some silly misunderstanding or quarrel, had 
separated on their wedding-day, and had now 
agreed to live together, whether happily or 
the reverse it was not the business of any- 
one to inquire. Their dinner-parties were 
delightful, and you always met the very 
people whom, of all others, you wanted 



particularly to see, at Mrs. Otway's charm- 
ing " at homes." 

She was a very pretty and fascinating 
woman. All the men admired her beautiful 
face and bright, animated manner; the women 
raved about her gowns and her exquiste taste 
in dress. Neither men nor women looked 
below the surface, or cared whether the 
beautiful girl who did the honours of her 
husband's house with so much grace and 
tact, was happy or the reverse. 

But among the indifferent majority there 
were two, a man and a woman, who were 
very much interested in the question of 
Letty's happiness ; the man was Arthur 
Filmer, the woman Mrs. Ogilvey. When 
the latter heard that Otway's wife had con- 
sented to live with him, she was so bitterly 
disappointed at the downfall of her dearest 
hopes that it was with the greatest difficulty 
she forced herself to congratulate him upon 
having at last succeeded in overcoming his 


wife's Strange repugnance to him. She would 
have given a great deal to know how it had 
all come about. Otway had hitherto effectu- 
ally baffled her in every attempt she made to 
find out whether he was still in love with 
Letty or not ; and now that Mr. and Mrs. 
Herbert Otway were seen everywhere to- 
gether, apparently as happy and contented 
as any young couple in England, she was 
naturally more in the dark than before. 

But she suspected that the fair face pre- 
sented to the world, was not the face worn 
in private ; something in Letty's manner — 
her ignorance of her husband's likes and 
dislikes ; of his engagements unconnected 
with the mere routine of life at Rutland 
Gate ; of any business in which he was 
employed ; coupled with the fact of a certain 
coldness and formality between the pair, not 
visible, perhaps, except to a very close and 
interested observer, raised a suspicion of the 
real state of the case in Mrs. Ogilvey's mind. 


It was Impossible for Letty to be always on 
her guard, and the efforts she made some- 
times to retract a statement, or even to recall 
a word, which betrayed too much, were not 
lost on this plausible, and to Letty's mind, 
too officious friend. 

'' It is not my fault if I am more intimate 
than you approve with your friend Mrs. 
Ogilvey," she said once to her husband. 
'' She forces her friendship upon me whether 
I like it or not." 

And his reply that she was a good-natured, 
kind-hearted woman, simply served to set 
Letty more and more against the handsome 
widow, who was never tired of impressing 
upon her young friend what a noble man her 
husband was, and how happy she ought to 

Letty was far too proud to make a con- 
fidant of her old friend Arthur Filmer ; but 
naturally she was less on her guard with him 
than with Mrs. Ogilvey ; and he was not long 


In making the discovery that, although the 
husband and wife had apparently come to- 
gether, they were in reality as much apart as 
when she lived in her father's house. 

This was a real trouble to the young man, 
who was as fond of Letty as if she was his 
sister ; but it was Otway whom he blamed ; 
forgetting altogether that before the marriage 
he had taken Letty to task for her indifference 
to her future husband. But, with the keen 
eyes of a man who would have fallen in love 
himself had the woman he loved been free, 
Arthur saw that Letty was by no means 
indifferent now ; that every thought of her 
heart was given to the cold, neglectful, 
masterful creature, who had, seemingly, ad- 
miring eyes for every woman he saw except 
his own most lovely wife ! Otway's coldness, 
and the calm air of ownership, which Filmer 
chose to think his manner to Letty betrayed, 
were so exasperating, that the young man, 
who was in town again, doing his "bit of 


season " as he called it, went very little to the 
Rutland Gate house, except when he was 
sure of finding its mistress alone ; and it 
never occurred to him that his movements 
were watched jealously enough by the 
undemonstrative master. 

It was by his avoidance of what may be 
called the state festivities at the Otways', 
that Filmer had not had any opportunity of 
renewing his acquaintance with Mrs. John 
Erskine. She was in town with Sir John 
and Miss Lambton, and she persuaded her 
father-in-law to allow her to be presented 
with Letty, instead of obliging her to wait 
until her first year of widowhood was over. 
Sir John held out for a time, as he was 
scandalised, and disappointed as well, at her 
anxiety to appear in public ; but he soon 
began to make excuses for her on the score 
of youth ; so a house was taken, and the 
beautiful young widow speedily made a 


But Sir John, who went about with her to 
balls, receptions, flower shows and fetes of 
all kinds ; who was proud of her beauty and 
lavish of his presents in order that she might 
be always handsomely dressed, would have 
been surprised, wounded, and vexed beyond 
measure, had he heard the comments that 
were made upon her manner and conversation 
in places where men do congregate ! It 
would have been cruel to enlighten him, and 
the more so, as in his heart of hearts he 
wished that, to Amy's extraordinary and 
uncommon beauty of face and figure, could 
be added a tinge of the repose that marks 
the cast of Vere de Vere. 

Among the men who flocked about her — 
and that she had heaps of admirers goes 
without saying — not one was more devoted 
than Walter Duncombe, and Sir John looked 
upon the close intimacy which had so suddenly 
grown up between the two with alarm and 
disapproval. That Amy should encourage a 


lover before her husband was a year in the 
grave, was In every way to be deplored ; but 
that, of all the men whom she knew, she 
should choose the man who had in India 
been known as the serious admirer of her 
own waiting maid — Amy, herself, had often 
said that he was in love with Rossitur — was 
intolerable to the old man's pride. 

But he was afraid to remonstrate with the 
self-willed woman who, if she was beautiful 
and charming, had also a sulky and obstinate 
temper which he did not care to arouse too 



'' It seems rather odd, does it not, that I 
have not met your sister-ln-law since I came 
to town ?" said Arthur Filmer, one morning, 
as he and Letty were riding in the Park. **I 
called three times in Park Street lately, and 
she was not at home. Yes, by the way, she 
was at home one afternoon, but she had such 
a bad headache she could not come down. 
It seems fated that we are not to meet." 

"But you will see her to-night," said Letty. 
'* We all dine with papa, you know." 

'' Is Otway coming ?" 

'' No ; he is engaged. He has some men 
to dine at the Club. We generally go out 
to dinner-parties together," she added, " but 


he does not stand on ceremony with papa." 
She gave a little sigh as she finished, and 
low as it was, her companion heard it, and, 
looking at her, he was struck by the almost 
mournful expression of her face. '* Poor little 
thing," he said to himself, ''she is not happy. 
How blind Otway is not to see that she cares 
for him ; but it seems to me that he has 
no eyes for anyone but that Mrs. Ogilvey." 
The kind - hearted young fellow was quite 
oppressed by the idea that Letty was un- 
happy, and by his own inability to help her 
in any way ; but he was afraid to touch upon 
the subject with her. In the old days, before 
the marriage, she had lightly scoffed at love 
and lovers, and he had spoken his mind 
freely enough ; but now he did not dare to 
give his opinion as he had given it then. 
He saw that, by some extraordinary fatality, 
the position of affairs had entirely changed ; 
now it was Otway who was, at least as far as 
could be judged by appearances, absolutely 


indifferent — and how was an outsider to in- 
terfere between husband and wife ? 

Letty treated Filmer with the frank famili- 
arity of a sister, and not for worlds would he 
have hurt or frightened her by hinting that 
evil-minded people who see harm in every- 
thing, might draw, or pretend to draw, false 
inferences from their free and cordial inti- 
macy. So he came and went day after day 
to Rutland Gate, and Otway, when they met, 
which was not often, gave him a hearty 

This cordiality on the part of Letty's 
husband — such is the perversity of those 
who can but judge from the outside — was 
gall and wormwood to Filmer, and his worst 
suspicions were aroused. "Is it possible," 
he thought, '' that he can be scoundrel 
enough to hope to gain his freedom by 
throwing us together? If I were certain 
that was his object, I could kill him ! But 
she doesn't care for me, so he will be bitterly 


disappointed. What is the meaning of it 
all ? I always looked upon him as one of 
the most honourable and high - minded of 
men, and unless I am driven to it I do not 
want to think him a sneak and a double 
dealer !" 

''Come back and lunch with me," Letty 
said as they were about to leave the Park. 
" I am quite alone ; and you might as well 
escort me to the Albert Hall in the afternoon 
to the concert. Mr. Otway cannot come, so 
I have his ticket to give away. Do come ; 
it will be very good." 

" Thank you very much — but — " 

" Oh, you do not want to come. Then 
by all means, dont r 

" I do want to come very much," he cried. 
" But I thought " again he stopped. 

"What is it? You really must tell me," 
she said. 

"Well, then, that Otway might not like 
it," he blurted out boldly, and he wished with 


all his heart, when it was too late, that he 
had held his tongue. 

Letty's face burned. " You are very much 
mistaken," she said, in an icy tone. " My 
husband will not even ask to whom I gave 
his ticket." But Filmer's words were a 
revelation to her ! Otway was certainly 
indifferent, but perhaps other people made 
remarks about her and Arthur. The flush 
upon her face deepened, and a spirit of 
defiance rose in her sore heart! " Let them 
say what they like," she thought. "I am 
not going to give up the only friend I 

They were riding slowly towards the 
Memorial when the above conversation took 
place ; Letty was looking straight before 
her, and consequently she did not see 
Otway on her left hand walking towards 
Hyde Park Corner, and besides him Mrs. 

" There goes Mrs. Otway with the faithful 


Filmer," the latter said, as she touched her 
companion's arm to attract his attention. 

'' Yes ; Letty told me she was going to ride 
with him this morning," Otway replied, care- 
lessly ; and then he added, " Nice young 
fellow — Filmer! I like him." 

But if Letty did not see her husband and 
Mrs. Ogilvey, she presently caught sight of 
the tall upright figure of her father, and with 
him Mrs. John, most exquisitely dressed in 
what she was pleased to call slight mourning ; 
and at her other side walked Walter Dun- 

" There ! There is Amy !" Letty cried, 
" now you can see her ; she is walking 
between papa and Mr. Duncombe." 

** I can see her parasol, but not herself!" 
Filmer answered, laughing. *' I think she 
has grown an inch or two since I knew her 
in India! She certainly never struck me as 
a tall woman before !" 

'* She is taller than I expected to see her," 


said Letty, "but I do not know why I 
thought of her as Httle. Jack never spoke of 
her as small." 

'' Oh ! no one could call her small," 
answered Fllmer, "but now she looks a 
very fine woman. Are she and Duncombe 
going to make a match of it ? He was not 
one of her prime favourites in India." 

" I think he admires her very much," 
said Letty, " and he is undoubtedly a 
prime favourite with her now. But papa 
will never give his consent. He does not 
like the man." 

" I should think Mrs. John will do as she 
likes ; she always had a will of her own ! 
And yet she was easily led by anyone who 
had influence over her ; that woman Rossitur 
made her do exactly as she pleased." 

" I should say it was impossible for any- 
one to lead Amy, or to drive her either," 
said Letty. "She has the calmest, coolest 
way of ignoring what is said to her if she 


happens not to agree with it ; and when 
you think she is taking your advice and 
being grateful for it, she is simply planning 
how to have her own way." 

'' I suppose people develop new traits 
under new circumstances," said Filmer, "for 
that was not exactly Mrs. John Erskine's 
character when I knew her. She was very 
fond of admiration ; very vain and not very 
sensible, I am afraid ; but it was possible to 
lead her if one only knew the way. For 
instance, as I said just now, she was com- 
pletely under Rossitur's thumb." 

" And as I said before, I cannot imagine 
Amy under the thumb of anyone," Letty 
answered. *' She quite rules my father, and 
if she does not get her own way, in her own 
way, she either sulks and makes the poor 
man miserable, or she coaxes and cajoles him 
until he is so pleased and flattered he can- 
not refuse her anything. Mr. Otway is the 
only man she knows who does not bow down 


and worship at her shrine, and she detests 
him accordingly. She always speaks of him 
to me as ' that husband of yours, Letty !' " 
"Are she and Mrs. Ogilvey very intimate?" 
" Not at all. I thought there was going 
to be quite a sublime friendship between 
them ; but Mrs. Ogilvey is too intimate with 
us to please Amy," and Letty laughed. 
" Here we are; and here comes Mr. Otway 
in a hansom." 

He helped Letty to dismount. " I saw 
you in the Park, but you did not look at 

" Where were you ? Were you alone ?" 
" No, Mrs. Ogilvey was with me. Filmer, 
take my advice, never act as trustee to a rich 
widow. It is the most troublesome and the 
most thankless office under the sun. I am 
going to lunch now at Queen's Gate Terrace ; 
I just came here on my way to get some 
business papers she wants to look over. Let 
me see, Letty — you dine in Park Street, 



to-night ? Remember we have a box at the 
Haymarket to-morrow. You will dine with 
us, Fllmer, and come too." 

Letty never spoke. She had not seen 
Otway since the previous evening, and now 
he was going out again. Fllmer found her 
but a dull companion, and he was not sur- 
prised when she dismissed him after luncheon, 
saying that she was too tired to go to the 
concert. " But we meet at dinner," she said, 
*' and I am curious to see how you and Amy 
get on." 

It was but a small party that evening at 
Sir John's. The Murrays, who were in town 
for a clergyman's fortnight, came ; and a 
couple of old cronies of Sir John's, who liked 
a quiet rubber with him and Miss Lambton 
after dinner, and Letty and Fllmer, made up 
the number. Buncombe was also Invited 
but he was engaged. 

When Fllmer arrived, the first thing he 
heard was that Mrs. John had been attacked 


with sudden faintness while she was dressing, 
and the doctor who was sent for said she 
must remain very quiet, and not attempt to 
appear at dinner. 

'* I told you there was a fatality about our 
meeting," said Filmer, as he and Letty went 
down to the dining-room together. '' I hope 
she is not very ill." 

'' Oh, no ! I saw her for a moment ; she 
looked rather ghastly ; but she said she felt 
better, and she told me to tell you how sorry 
she was not to see you." 

It was nearly eleven o'clock, Dr. and Mrs. 
Murray had gone away, and the last rubber 
was being finished when Letty, who had been 
singing for Filmer, rose suddenly and said, 
'' I must go up and ask Amy how she is. 
She will think I am so unkind." 

In about five minutes she came back 
looking half-amused and half-puzzled. 

'' Well ?" Filmer said. 

" She has gone out !" Letty answered. 


'' Hush ! do not let papa hear. He would 
be very angry. Her maid told me that she 
said she must have some fresh air — the house 
was so hot — and she went out alone to the 
Park. It is close by, certainly ; but still I 
do not think she ought to be there by her- 
self at this hour." 

Filmer presently said good-night, and went 
away. The following evening, when he came 
to dinner at Rutland Gate, he asked for 
news of Mrs. John. " I ought to have 
called to-day to inquire," he said, " but I 
hadn't time. Did she come back before you 
left .^" 

'' She did not go out after all," Letty 
replied. " I found her reading in the library 
when you went away. She got frightened, 
she said, when she opened the door and 
looked out." 

" And you will never guess who I saw at 
Stanhope Gate, when I was going home," 
said Filmer. " Rossitur !" 


" Nonsense !" cried Letty. ** Are you 
sure ?" 

'' Perfectly. Hers is not a face one can 
forget ; and if I am not very much mistaken, 
the man she was talking to was Walter Dun- 
combe ! His hat was pulled down over his 
eyes, but I am sure it was he." 

" I never heard anything so extraordinary!" 
exclaimed Letty. '' I must see Amy to- 
morrow, and tell her. She is always wonder- 
ing where Rossitur is." 



'* I MET your father this morning, Letty," 
said Otway, as the little party of three sat 
down to dinner, "and he told me that he 
and Amy and Duncombe are going to the 
Haymarket to-night, and I fancy they have 
the box exactly opposite to ours." 
" Did you tell him we were going ?" 
** Yes ; and he said he hoped Filmer would 
come round and be introduced. Amy was 
dreadfully disappointed not to see him last 

** How is she to-day ? Better, I hope." 
'* Yes ; I believe so. But she had a return 
of the faintness last night or this morning. 
She says London does not suit her. I do 

MRS. ERSKINE's health GIVES WAY. 8/ 

not think there is much the matter with her, 
myself. Perhaps our friend Duncombe is 
not quite in earnest enough to please her !" 
he added, laughing. 

*' I think she ought to know that he meets 
Rossitur," said Letty. 

'' Perhaps she knows more than we give 
her credit for," said Filmer. " My own 
opinion is — I hope I am not too suspicious — • 
that she was going out to see the woman and 
Duncombe together last night herself, and 
that her courage failed her at the last 
moment." And then Filmer explained to 
Otway that he had seen Rossitur talking to 
a man he took to be Duncombe, in the Park 
the evening before. 

" How long was it after Filmer left that 
you found her in the library, Letty ?" Otway 

"Oh! half - an - hour ; or perhaps three- 
quarters. Yes ; it was a quarter-past eleven 
when Arthur went away, and it was striking 


twelve, I remember, when I left Amy In the 
library and said good-night. She was then 
going upstairs to bed." 

" And she had not been out ?" 

'' No ; as soon as she got outside the door 
she said she was frightened, It was so dark, 
and she came back." 

''Well— one must take her word for It, of 
course," said Otway. '' Besides, we have no 
reason to suppose that she Is making a 
mystery about It. It Is just a coincidence ; 
nothing more." 

" I should just like to know what Rossltur 
is about," said Fllmer, ''and how she and 
Duncombe have managed to meet again." 

"Amy says she Is sure they kept up some 
communication after Rossltur left India," 
said Letty, " but I think he Is In love with 
Amy herself, and that It was some other man 
you saw In the Park, Arthur." 

" Perhaps so ; but I never thought much 
of Duncombe, and Sir John ought to keep a 

MRS. ERSKINe's health GIVES WAY. 89 

sharp look out and watch what he Is about. 
If he and that woman Rossitur meet in 
private, there must be some understanding 
between them." 

"And In my opinion," said Otway, " Mrs. 
John is in the secret." 

''I do not see the Park Street people 
anywhere ; do you ?" Otway said, as he 
examined the opposite boxes with his 
glass, when the curtain fell after the first 

" Perhaps they are on this side." 

" No ; they were to be opposite to us ; and 
there is one empty box, you see. I suppose 
Amy is 111 again." 

" And I may as well give up all hope of 
ever seeing her," said Fllmer, laughing. - 

" Oh, no !" exclaimed Letty. '' Papa Is 
sure to ask you down to the Chase. You 
are a great favourite of his, you know, and I 
hope to be there in August." 

" You think of going to Stoneshire then. 


when the season is over?" said Otway, ad- 
dressing his wife. " I have not made any- 
definite plans myself yet." 

The curtain rose again as he was speaking, 
so Letty made no reply. 

When they got back to Rutland Gate, 
Letty found a letter from Miss Lambton. 
"We were not at the theatre," she wrote, 
''and we are all off to the Chase to-morrow. 
The doctors say Amy must not stay in town 
even another week, or these attacks of faint- 
ness may become serious. She had another 
bad one just as the carriage came round to 
take us to the Hay market." 

" I wonder what it is," said Otway. " Has 
she taken to tight-lacing, do you think ?" 

" I am afraid it is very conceited of me to 
say so," laughed Filmer, "but, upon my 
word, I am beginning to think that she 
wants to avoid me for some reason or other. 
She never liked me in India ; but still, it 
seems absurd to think that she would get up 


fainting fits, and run away from town, rather 
than meet me." 

*' Very absurd indeed," said Otway, "and 
very improbable besides. I think she Hkes 
her fun in town as well as any young woman 
I know ! No, Filmer my boy. You need 
not flatter yourself that you have anything to 
do with it. But it may have something to do 
with Rossitur and Duncombe." 

" Yes ; that is it, depend upon it," said 
Filmer. " Rossitur is at the bottom of it ; 
and in my opinion she is capable of any- 

The next morning, Letty paid an early 
visit to Park Street ; she found the house 
in confusion, the hall already filled with 
luggage, and her father in the library flurried 
and bewildered by the suddenness of the 

" Oh, my dear," he said, as soon as he saw 
his daughter. " Isn't this a pretty state of 
things ? And I have the house for another 


six weeks. Not that I care about that if 
only I were not so anxious about that poor 
dear girl. She Is very ill, Letty. Very ill 
indeed. She made me feel her pulse this 
morning, and I could scarcely tell whether 
there was a pulse or not. It was so feeble. I 
wish with all my heart we had never come 
to town at all. But it was not my doing. 
These late hours have done for her, poor 
child. She was always in bed at ten, she 
tells me, in Sorrento," 

'* Oh, papa. I am sure it is not the late 
hours. She must have eaten something that 
disagreed with her." 

*'But I assure you she did not. She is 
thoroughly knocked up. The doctors say so, 
and they must know. ' Very much below 
par — great want of tone !' That Is what Sir 
Dash Blank told me last night, in this very 
room, and Sir Blank Dash said the same 
this morning. She is to have chicken broth 
and champagne, and cheerful society three 


times a day. What are you laughing at, 
Letty ? Upon my word, I am afraid you 
have very Httle feeling." 

" Indeed, papa, I am very sorry for Amy ; 
but I was amused at the cheerful society three 
times a day." 

"Oh! you know what I mean. And why 
shouldn't she have cheerful society all day 
long if she chooses ? We have been planning 
what people we are going to have down by 
and by. I am sure I would do anything in 
the world to make the poor darling look 
more like herself! You will find her in the 
drawing-room, lying down ; I desired her on 
no account to pack even a pocket handker- 
chief! She took a turn in the Park this 
morning for a quarter-of-an-hour ; Sir Blank 
Dash said she was to have as much fresh air 
as possible, and Buncombe, who called early 
to know how she was, very kindly gave her 
his arm. But she said she was too tired to 
talk to him." 


Letty found her sister-in-law on a couch in 
the drawing-room ; the room was darkened 
and a white handkerchief was laid on her 
forehead. '' My poor head aches so, dear," 
she said. '' I cannot bear the light! Really, 
I feel awfully ill, and I am so worried about 
your poor dear father. It is very stupid of 
me to knock up in this way. I hope he is 
not very angry with me." 

'' He is not angry at all," Letty answered, 
'' only a little put out. I think you are wise 
to leave town at once ; you will get all right 
at the Chase." 

" I hope so," the Invalid murmured. " I 
was so sorry to miss the theatre last night ; 
and I did so want to have a nice chat with 
Arthur Filmer ! Please tell him how vexed 
I am." 

" By the way, I wanted to ask you," said 
Letty, " has Mr. Duncombe said anything 
to you lately about your maid Rossitur ? 
Did he mention her to you yesterday or this 


morning ? Oh ! Why did you not ask me 
to give it to you ?" 

This sudden question was caused by the 
upsetting of a bottle of eau de Cologne 
which stood on a small table beside the 
couch. Mrs. John put out her hand to 
reach it and knocked it down. 

" Oh, never mind !" said Amy. '' There 
was very little in it ; you were asking some- 
thing about Rossitur — oh ! how my poor 
head throbs ! — and Mr. Duncombe ; I do not 
think he mentioned her lately ; he knows 
I do not like her now. Why do you 
ask .^" 

'' Because, when Arthur Filmer was going 
home from this house the night before last — 
you were not well enough to meet him at 
dinner, you remember — he saw Rossitur 
standing at Stanhope Gate talking to Mr. 

A wave of colour mounted slowly to Mrs. 
John's pale face. She pulled the handker- 


chief from her forehead and sat up. " Im- 
possible, Letty ! He must be mistaken. 
Walter Buncombe dined at Windsor that 
evening, and the woman — oh, goodness 
knows who the woman was, not Rossitur, 
I am sure." 

*'Mr. Filmer says it was certainly Rossitur; 
that her face is not a face you can forget; but 
he is not so sure about Mr. Duncombe." 

'' I do not believe she is in London," said 
Mrs. John, pettishly. '' That Arthur Filmer 
is always making up stories. It is an old 
trick of his. I wonder you like him so much, 
Letty. If I had gone out that evening as I 
intended, he would have taken me for that 
woman. It was he who said we were so 
much alike. Poor darling Jack never for- 
gave him. There is Sir John calling you. 
Do ask him to remember my poor head, and 
not to talk so loud. Everyone has been 
shouting and banging doors ever since six 
o'clock. Remember me to Filmer, and tell 


him if he sees Rossitur again, to speak to 
her, and ask her where she is Hving." 

" Letty !" again Sir John called from the 
bottom of the stairs. 

" Coming, papa!" and away she ran. 

''And so she was seen the other night." 
said Mrs. John to herself. " I must write a 
line to Walter and tell him." 

This was what she wrote. " Young 
Filmer says he saw yozc and Rossititr talking 
together at Stanhope Gate, when he was on 
his way home the night before last. Of 
course he was mistaken about you, for you 
could not dine here that evening because 
you were going to a dinner and dance at 

''Look here, Letty," said Sir John, "you 
will never guess who has just been here. 
We must not tell Amy, for it might excite 
her too much in her weak state." 

"Who was it, papa .^ Not Rossitur?" 

" No ; but Rossitur's husband, George 
VOL. in. H 


Pottlnger. He has been discharged from 
the asylum, quite well, and found out my 
address, and came here to know if I could 
tell him anything of his wife. I gave him a 
five pound note, and told him to come down 
to the Chase next week. Amy will be well 
enough to see him then. Poor fellow ! The 
tears came into his eyes when he spoke of 
his dear young master." 



Mrs. John Erskine's health improved rapidly 
as soon as she left London ; and she ex- 
pressed the greatest delight when she found 
herself once more at the '' dear Chase," with 
her '' darling boy." How she could have 
brought herself to leave him for so many 
weeks was a mystery. London was hateful. 
Everything there was so hollow and artificial. 
The dinners and receptions, " at homes " and 
flower shows and theatres, were all dull and 
fatiguing. No ; the country was her delight. 
If she could have just a few congenial friends 
now and then, to break the monotony, life at 
the Chase would be perfect. 

Sir John was charmed to see her once 


more in her usual health and spirits, and she 
had, if possible, more of her own way than 
before the visit to town; but in some respects 
she was, perhaps, a little less exacting. Miss 
Lambton, in her quiet way, made a good 
many observations of her nephew's widow at 
that time ; she had always been more or less 
of a puzzle to the simple-minded, straight- 
forward old lady, and she could not now 
understand her extraordinary restlessness, 
and a certain amount of w^hat seemed like 
exaggerated gaiety in her manner. 

In London, Miss Lambton suspected that 
Amy was less ill than she fancied ; and now, 
at the Chase, she was of opinion that she 
was not as well as she wished to appear. 
Was there any hidden motive in all this ? 
Had she any object in leaving London so 
suddenly ? But the motive was either too 
well disguised, or Miss Lambton was not 
shrewd enough to detect it, for she was 
obliged to come to the conclusion at last that 


Amy's health had suffered, and that she was 
really glad to find herself back in Stoneshire. 
Sir John never saw anything that was not 
directly under his eyes ; Amy said she was 
quite well again, and very happy, and of 
of course she meant what she said. He had 
a pleasant little surprise in store for her, and 
he chuckled much over it in secret. How 
deliofhted she would be to hear that her dear 
husband's faithful and attached servant — 
George Pottinger — had recovered his senses 
and was quite strong and well again. He 
had been discharged from the army, it was 
true, but there was nothing remarkable in 
that ; and a clever, capable fellow, such as 
he was, would easily find employment — had 
found it, in fact, for Sir John was going to 
take him on as his own body-servant. There 
was no one like an old soldier for such a 
post ; and to have the very man who had 
waited on "poor dear Jack" in India, com- 
pleted Sir John's satisfaction. 


As luck would have it, just as he was 
leaving town, his present valet expressed a 
desire to leave ; but it was not until he was 
actually on his way home that Sir John 
thought of engaging George Pottinger. 
Fortunately he had his address ; he would 
send him to Otway, and he would arrange it 
all. It was just possible that Pottinger him- 
self would prefer to go as groom — Jack said 
he was clever about horses — and if so, a place 
might be found for him by and by in the 
stables. Sir John was determined to have 
him in one capacity or another. It would 
please Amy, and be a good thing for the poor 
fellow himself. Having suffered from sun- 
stroke, and been out of his mind, he ought 
to be with people who would be kind and 
considerate to him. 

Otway wrote a satisfactory account of his 
interview with Pottinger, who had expressed, 
he said, unbounded gratitude to Sir John for 
his kindness in offering him so excellent a 


situation ; it was more than he had dared to 
hope for ; and no effort on his part should be 
spared to give satisfaction to his new master. 
'' I see no signs of either insanity or weak 
intellect about him," Otway wrote — Sir John 
had asked his son-in-law to make obser- 
vations on those points — "but it is quite 
possible that, having gone mad once, he may 
go mad again, so you must be prepared. 
But, at the same time, it is not very likely ; 
he will have a quiet life at the Chase, and 
quiet is the best thing for him. At present 
he seems to have but one anxiety, and that is 
to find some trace of his wife. She never 
wrote to him while he was in confinement, 
and he cannot imagine what has become of 
her. I confess I thought it was better not to 
encourage him to talk about her, for he 
certainly got a little excited when he began ; 
a rather wild look came into his eyes, and I 
heard him muttering something that sounded 
like ' reparation,' and the death of his master. 


But I took no notice, and I simply mention 
this to warn you not to let him dwell too 
much on this woman, who seems to be a 
most worthless, heartless creature, and, in my 
opinion, he is well rid of her. I did not tell 
him that Amy had spent the winter at 
Sorrento, and that Rossltur was with her 
there, for he might take it into his head to go 
there to make inquiries, and get himself into 
trouble. He is now full of the idea that 
* Mrs. John,' as he calls her, will help him to 
find ' Bella ;' but, my advice is, talk about 
her as little as possible. 

''I have just this moment heard from Letty 
that Arthur Filmer met Pottinger as he 
was leaving the house, and very foolishly 
mentioned to him having seen Rossltur in 
the Park the other evening, or someone he 
took for her, for I do not believe myself that 
she is in London. Filmer declares that he 
could not be mistaken, she is such a remark- 
able-looking woman. Luckily he did not tell 


Pottinger that she was talking to a man 
supposed to be Walter Duncombe. I have 
arranged with him to go down to you on 
Tuesday next, and I hope he will suit and 
go on well." 

Now, whether Sir John had some vague 
suspicion that his daughter - In - law would 
object to Pottlnger's presence in the house 
had she known of his Intention to engage 
him, or whether he really wished to give her 
what he believed to be a pleasant surprise, It is 
impossible to say ; but, on one occasion, after 
a very disagreeable episode, connected with 
the abrupt dismissal of an exemplary house- 
keeper at the caprice of Mrs. John, he made 
her understand that she must not Interfere in 
any way with the servants at the Chase. 
Amy promised to comply with his request, 
but she contrived to make herself so ob- 
noxious to any domestic who was unlucky 
enough to displease her, that changes in the 
once contented household were constantly 


taking place, and the unanimous opinion in 
the servants' hall was, that '' Mrs. John was 
no lady." 

Two days after the return of the family 
from town, Walter Duncombe, who had, 
apparently, no attraction in London after the 
departure of the young widow, rode over to 
luncheon, in the unceremonious manner that 
had become habitual. When his visits to the 
Chase began, Miss Lambton performed her 
part of "sheep dog" diligently enough, but 
after a time she relaxed in her diligence. If 
anyone in the world was able to take care of 
herself, surely Mrs. John was that one ! It 
was absurd to think that she wanted a 
chaperon on every occasion ; thus it happened 
that she and Duncombe were constantly 

The intimacy that existed between the pair 
might well have puzzled the most observant 
of lookers-on. She was alternately coquettish, 
demonstrative, compliant or exacting ; but, 


always ready — too ready — • some said, to 
follow his lead ; he, on his part, was prone to 
assume airs of proprietorship which could not 
be his by right, as there was no formal en- 
gagement between him and her ; nor had he, 
at least openly, even hinted at the existence 
of a desire to gain her hand. He was 
deferential enough in some respects, but it 
was an odd sort of deference at its best ; 
at least, according to Miss Lambton's old- 
fashioned ideas, there was in it as much 
mockery as respect. 

"I do not pretend to understand these 
new-fangled ways," she would say to Miss 
Masham, ** but I know if any man had looked 
at me or my sister, when we were young, in 
the way I have seen men, and especially Mr. 
Buncombe, look at Amy, he would not have 
had an opportunity a second time. But I 
suppose if she does not object, I may as well 
hold my tongue." 

On the day of Buncombe's visit, Miss 


Masham had also driven over to welcome 
back her friends, and to hear the news ; 
and after luncheon, when Mrs. John and 
Buncombe strolled out together, the two old 
ladies had the luxury of a confidential chat. 
The sudden flight from town was of course 
a subject of great Interest. 

" She does not look as If there was much 
the matter with her," Miss Masham said, 
"and she ate a capital luncheon. What 
brought on those fainting fits, do you know ?" 

*' Over fatigue, late hours, and want of 
tone, the doctors said. I should have said 
hysteria myself If she had not got well so 
suddenly. I hope I am not a very suspicious 
old woman, Fanny," she added, '' but I 
cannot help thinking there was someone in 
town she wanted to avoid." 

" Man or woman !" 

'' I cannot tell. Sometimes I fancy it 
was that woman Rossltur ; but I may be 
mistaken. The first fainting fit came on 


one evening we were expecting a few people 
to dinner — ^just the Otways, and two old 
gentlemen, friends of John's, and Arthur 
Filmer ; you have seen him here — he was 
in poor Jack's regiment you know. Amy 
knew all of them, and she was particularly 
anxious to see young Filmer, she said." 

'' She said so, but who knows if it is true ? 
I am the suspicious old woman now." 

" But the odd thing is," Miss Lambton 
continued, '' that although she was not well 
enough to come down to dinner, she went 
out that evening. She told Letty she just 
went outside the door — got frightened it was 
so dark — and came back again ; but the butler 
told me privately that she was out for more 
than an hour. He saw her from the dining- 
room window as she went out, and she let 
herself in with a latch-key. I do not know 
whether to believe his story or not, and I did 
not ask him any questions or appear curious. 
Servants always exaggerate about a thing 


of that kind, and they all dislike Amy 
very much. I wonder he did not say two 

*' And when was the next fainting fit ?" 

"The next evening, I think. We were all 
going to the Haymarket Theatre, and just as 
we were going to start she fell back on a 
sofa in the dining-room and spilt her cup of 
coffee over her gown. We were dreadfully 
frightened, it was so long before she came 

*' And were you to meet anyone at the 
theatre ?" 

'' No ; we had a box to ourselves. The 
Otways and Arthur Filmer had one exactly 

"Did Mrs. John know that?" 

" I think Sir John mentioned it at 
luncheon, but I am not sure." 

" Now, one more question," said Miss 
Masham, " you must feel as if you were in 
the witness-box. What sort of gown did she 


put on when she dressed for the evening ? 
Anything very smart ?" 

" No ; it was rather a shabby, black dress 
that I thought she had given away, or never 
meant to wear again." 

"And it was spoiled with the coffee, and 
Arthur Filmer was to be in the box opposite 
to yours ! I should say she wanted to avoid 

*'But why?" said Miss Lambton, ''why?" 

'' Ah ! my dear, that I cannot tell you ; but 
of course she knows." 



"And so you think I managed to get away 
very cleverly?" Mrs. John Erskine remarked 
to her companion, Walter Buncombe. They 
had left the gardens and wandered away into 
the wood which had been the scene — told In 
an early chapter of this story — of Letty's 
encounter with Otway's ex-secretary. The 
lady was looking remarkably handsome, and 
there was not the slightest trace of Indis- 
position or 'Mowness of tone" about her. 
She was becomingly dressed, but her costume 
was a little too elaborate for a country walk ; 
it was the style of dress that the " leading 
lady" on the stage of a second-rate theatre 
invariably wears when she is going to pick 


blackberries, or paddle on the sea shore. 
Mrs. John very rarely studied the appro- 
priate in her dress, but she never forgot the 

''And you think I managed cleverly .f^" she 

" Yes, very," said Buncombe. " But I am 
sorry it had to be done ; it was very jolly in 

"Then why did you come away .'^ You 
were not obliged." 

'' No, not obliged," he answered, looking 
at her, ''except by my own wishes." 

"I am not sure that it was the wisest thing 
you could do," she rejoined, after a pause. 
" Have you thought what is to be the end of 

all this r 

" Certainly. I — we know what the end is 
to be." 

" Do we ?" she answered, with a little 
laugh. " I confess I do not." 

" And it is not my fault that the end is so 



long delayed," he continued. '' Can you look 
me in the face — Amy," — there was the 
slightest possible hesitation before he said 
the name — " and say it is my fault ?" 

'' No, no," she said, " it is mine." 

** You had more courage when I first knew 
you in India," he went on. " You were the 
pluckiest girl I ever met — up to a certain 

'' I am not a coward now," she interrupted. 
" I am sure you cannot accuse me of it ; but 
I do not want to make a mistake that can 
never be set right." 

" If I do not consider it a mistake," and 
again he looked full into her eyes, '' what 
does it signify ? But you do not trust me. 
Amy ; that is the truth. You will neither 
run away with me and face the consequences, 
nor let me go to Sir John and ask his con- 
sent to our marriage." 

'' I do trust you," she cried. '' But why 
are you so sure of yourself? Some day — it 


may not be for years — everything may be 
known — remember she is alive as well as he 
— and then what would happen ? It might 
serve your purpose to get rid of me ; I can- 
not forget that, although I belie\^ you care 
for me now." 

''Or it might suit you, Mrs. Erskine, 
to get rid of me, although I believe you 
care for me now," he repeated in her own 

" If I care for anyone I care for you," she 
answered, "but I care for myself too." 

"Yes, you always cared for yourself; I 
know that of old. But I think you care for 
the boy a little, too, do you not ?" 

" Not much," she answered. " I am not 
fond of children. I sometimes forget that he 
is mine." 

" It is very strange," he replied, and he 
smiled as he spoke, "but when I met Bella 
Rossitur in London the other evening she 
said almost the same words." 


''I do not want to hear about Rossitur !" 
Mrs. John broke in, with a flash of anger in 
her eyes. ''It was a mistake your meeting 
her, and it did no good." 

" She is«kinder to me than you are — Amy 1 
Very much kinder. I beHeve, if I had 
pressed her hard, she would have run away 
with me there and then." 

" I do not beHeve it. I know Rossitur at 
least as well as you do." 

"She wished me well when we parted," 
Duncombe went on. "Poor Bella! And 
she — she was not angry when I kissed her 
as I said good-bye." 

"It was because she knew it was her last 
meeting with you." 

" And to think that Arthur Filmer saw us! 
I told Bella she ought to have worn a veil. 
However, 'all's well that ends well' As you 
truly say, she knew it was our last meeting ; 
and I say, just as truly, I do not think I want 
to see Rossitur again." 


" And we both seem to forget," said 
Mrs. John, with another of her odd laughs, 
''that there is no such person in the 
world as Rossitur. She is Mrs. George 

*' I suppose he is alive — confound him." 

" Oh, yes ; he is alive and getting better. 
The last news I heard of him was that he 
would soon be discharged." 

''And then what will happen?" 

"He will search everywhere for his wife 
and child. He is afraid of Rossitur ; but in 
spite of that she bewitches him, and he will 
never stop until he finds her." 

"And then?" 

'* He will compel her to live with him." 

" I should advise her to go abroad out of 
his way." 

" He will hunt her down no matter where 
she hides herself! And," she added, lowering 
her voice and looking round with a half- 
frightened glance, "he will do more! He 


will go mad again and kill her some day! 
It was awful to hear him threaten her in his 
ravings at Simla." 

'' Well, if unfortunately he should find her 
when he comes out, she should treat him as 
a lunatic and have him shut up again ; but I 
fancy, from what I know of her, she has 
already made up her mind to do that. What 
are you listening to? That is about the 
sixth time you looked over your shoulder! 
Do you hear steps ?" 

Mrs. Erskine had seated herself on a fallen 
tree, and Buncombe was half kneeling, half 
reclining on the turf at her feet. 

''Yes," she answered, "I am sure there 
is someone watching us." 

" Oh ! it is only one of the keepers. They 
feed the pheasants somewhere about here. 
Why do you get so pale ? He is not likely 
to take us for poachers." 

*' I cannot bear being in a wood !" she ex- 
claimed, rising hurriedly. ''And it frightens 


me to death to think that a keeper may be 
about with a gun. I do not know why I 
came here." 

'* There is someone over there, dodging in 
and out among the trees as If he was afraid 
of being seen," said Duncombe. He had 
Hngered behind her for a moment after he 
got up ; she was walking on towards the 
house. " Take my arm, dearest," he added, 
hurrying after her. *' You are trembHng." 

'* I feel more like fainting now than I did 
when those attacks came on in town," she 
answered, as she leant heavily on the support 
he offered. " Some horror seemed to come 
over me. I cannot tell what it was or why 
It came. Listen ! There are the steps 

Duncombe wheeled round suddenly. "Yes," 
he said, "3. man has just crossed the path. 
Now he is standing still, watching us. Shall 
I go back and ask him what he wants ? He 
may be a stranger who has lost his way, 


making a short cut to the station. He does 
not look like a tramp." 

'' Yes — go — I should like to be sure that 
he is not watching us. I shall walk on ; you 
will find me in the drawing-room when you 
come in." 

She went on, and Duncombe walked slowly 
back. When he had gone about fifty yards 
or so, he called out, " Hallo, you there ! 
What are you doing ? You cannot get to 
the station that way." 

The man he addressed came quietly 
towards him — stepped into the path — drew 
himself stiffly up and gave a military salute. 

'* Who are you, sir ?" cried Duncombe, 
angrily, "and what are you doing here?" 

The man saluted again. '' No harm, if 
you please, Mr. Duncombe. I am only 
taking a look round." 

** How do you know my name ? Who 
are you ? Are you a soldier ?" 

" I was in your honour's regiment, and you 


used to know me too, sir — George Pottinger, 
if you please, sir — Captain Erskine's servant." 

" I remember your name," said Duncombe, 
and he gave a quick look round to see if 
Amy was out of sight, " but I cannot say I 
remember your face. Did you see me here 
just now with a young lady ?" 

"Yes, your honour." 

" Do you know who she was." 

" No, your honour. I didn't see her face." 

*' She was your poor master's widow — Mrs. 
John Erskine." 

The face of the man grew suddenly livid, 
and then as suddenly became suffused with a 
deep dull red. *' Oh, Lord," he muttered 
" if I had only known !" 

*' I remember all about you now," Dun- 
combe went on ; '' you married Mrs. Erskine's 
maid, did you not ?" 

Pottinger's eyes blazed with sudden fury. 
"And it was you who tried to take her from 
me, you — you vil " 


** Look here," and Duncombe seized him 
by the collar, '' none of that with me. It's a 
lie that I ever tried to take Bella Rossitur 
from you ! D'ye hear ?'' and with a shake he 
let him go. 

Pottinger fell back a step or two, muttering 
under his breath. 

'* I shall tell Mrs. John Erskine I saw 
you," Duncombe said, after a pause, '' but I 
strongly recommend you not to come here 
worrying her. Where are you going to from 
this ?" 

" To Stillingfort, to see if I can find my 

'' Good. I hope you will ; and then ?'' 

*' I have a good place waiting for me." 

''In town?" 

*' No ; in the country." 

*' Good again ; try and keep it, and you 
had better be off to the station now if you 
want to catch your train." 

Pottinger saluted again in silence and 


turned away ; Duncombe stood for a moment 
looking after him. 

"It has come sooner than we thought," he 



Mrs. Erskine was alone In the drawing- 
room when Walter Buncombe came in. 
Something in the expression of his face 
alarmed her, and she started up to meet him 
with a very white face. 

"What is the matter?" she cried; **you 
look as if you had seen a ghost." 

'' I saw something much worse than a 
ghost ; you know the — the man we were 
talking of just now ?" 

*' Good Heavens !" and she staggered back 
into a seat. "You do not mean to say that 

the man who was watching us was — was " 

she stopped abruptly as if choking. 


''Yes," he answered. "It was George 
Pottinger. I did not recognise him, he is so 
altered ; but he knew me well enough." 

" And what — what do you think ? Is he 
in his right mind ?" 

" Yes — I think he is sane enough as far as 
that goes ; but it would not take much to set 
him off again. I asked if he saw the lady 
who was with me, and if he knew who she 
was. He said he had not seen your face, so 
I told him you were Mrs. John Erskine." 

" Oh, do you think that was wise ? What 
did he say ?'' 

"Well, he got rather excited, and said he 
wished he had known." 

" But did he not mention Rossitur ? Did 
he ask if she was here ?" 

"He seems to know she is not with you 
now," Duncombe answered. "And he re- 
membered suddenly who I was, and worked 
himself up into a rage, and accused me of 
having tried to take his wife from him ! 


Now, as I never saw her after she became 
Mrs. Pottlnger, until the day she came to 
the Hermitage, I was able to give him the 
lie ! I wish he had shown fight, as I could 
then have given him a rap on the head that 
would have floored him ! But he didn't ; 
he got cowed at once when I gave him a 

*' Well ; what happened then ? I am sure 
you are hiding something." 

'' Upon my soul, I'm not! I have nothing 
to hide. I said you should hear that I had 
seen him, and I desired him not to attempt to 
come here worrying you. I do not think he 
will ; he said he was on his way to StUlIng- 
fort, to look for his wife, and you may be 
very sure I said nothing to stop him, or to 
put him on her track." 

"And when he leaves Stilllngfort ?" 

"He says he has got a good place ; I did 
not ask him where." 

" I do not think it would be a bad plan," 


said Mrs. Erskine," after a pause, "to let him 
and Rossitur meet, if it could be managed." 

'' I think I could manage it," Buncombe 
answered, ''but it might not be so easy to get 
her away from him again. It might take 
more time, you see, than we could spare," he 
added, as he seated himself beside her, 
*' and that would be ruin. No, my dear. 
Take my advice, and do not let him get on 
her track if you can help it ; but if he should 
stumble upon her by accident " 

'^ Well, what then ?" 

'* He must be got rid of at all hazards! 
Shut up for life in an asylum, if there is no 
other way. As long as he is at liberty there 
is no security for her, unless she is wise 
enough, as I have so often advised, to go 
out of England." 

*' I am weary of the very sound of her 
name! You do not know how I hate it, 
Walter!" and Mrs. John broke down sud- 
denly into hysterical sobs. '* You were right 


in what you said to me just now ; I am losing 
all my courage, and the thought that that 
man may come here any moment, and force 
me to see him, is killing me ! What am I 
to do ? Oh — what am I to do ?" 

He put his arm round her and drew her to 

"Do what I have so often asked you to do. 
Come away with me to-night — to-morrow. 
We can be married in London, or abroad ; 
you would like to send a certificate of the 
marriage to the people here. Otherwise — 
well, you know. Or let me tell Sir John 
that we are engaged, and want to be married 
as soon and as privately as possible. You 
can make your short widowhood the excuse 
for a very private marriage. Why do you 
hesitate ? I give you my word of honour 
as a gentleman that if, in twenty years 
hence " 

" Oh, hush !" she cried, imploringly, " I do 
not doubt you, but I dare not consent ! 


Something seems to hold me back ! The 
announcement of the marriage will get into 
the newspapers, and will be read — every- 
where ! And then — and then " 

" That argument will apply any time within 
the next ten — or the next forty years !" he 
said, impatiently. " And in a game of chance 
like ours, we can but play our best ! And 
I think, my dear, all things considered, I 
deserve better treatment at your hands." He 
withdrew his arm from about her, and got 
up, looking hurt and angry. " Yes, I repeat 
it, far better treatment. It is not every 
man " 

" 1 know — 1 know !" she interrupted. *' You 
mean it is not every man who would have 
taken a hand in such a game. But, after all, 
you have something to win, and I have 
lived long enough in the world to know that 
if a man takes a fancy into his head, he 
will go through fire and water to gratify it. 
And a woman, too, for that matter. But 



remember, I have something to think of 
besides the gratification of either love or 
liking ; and, unless I am driven into another 
course, I mean to remain Mrs. John Erskine 
while that man lives. If I lose one game, I 
must try and win the other." 

'' I quite understand your play," he said. 
** But does it not occur to you that there may 
be limits to my patience ?" 

'' I cannot help it. I am not fool enough 
to suppose that, if it suited you, you would 
not give me up to-morrow ! I do not think 
you would play me any shabby trick !" she 
added, looking at him with rather a poor 
attempt at a smile ; and, as he passed before 
her — he was walking up and down the room 
— she put out her hand to take his. 

''Ah! You give me credit for that much 
honour and honesty!" he said. *' Yes — and I 
love you too !" he added, as he knelt beside 
her and caught her hands in his. ''You are 
the most beautiful woman I ever saw." 


''And If my beauty is to last, I suppose I 
must not worry too much about that mad- 
man !" she answered, with a hard Httle laugh. 
'' Here is Aunt Louise, and that odious little 
Masham woman is with her!" she added. 
" Do not let them find you here — go out by 
that open window and come round ; you will 
find us at tea." 

When the two ladies came in, they found 
Mrs. John alone. She was leaning back in 
her chair ; her eyes were closed and her 
arms hanging limply down. 

''Poor dear!" exclaimed Miss Lambton, 
" she has fainted again !" 

But the attack was a very slight one ; it 
had passed away before the restoratives, 
hurriedly sent for by Miss Lambton, arrived. 

" I was walking in the wood with Mr. 
Duncombe, and a man frightened me," she 
explained. " I must talk to Sir John about it." 

And the same evening after dinner she 
asked Sir John to come to her in her own 


sitting-room. She and Duncombe had had a 
hurried consultation just before he went 
away, and it was agreed between them that 
Mrs. John was to tell her father-in-law of the 
appearance of Pottinger. '' I think I ought 
to speak of him as an escaped lunatic," she 
said, ''and say I am terrified at the bare idea 
of seeing him." 

" I hope you do not feel ill, my love," said 
Sir John, in his anxious, fussy manner, as he 
hurried into Amy's room and sat down beside 
her. " I was quite frightened when I found 
you were not coming to dinner, and Louise 
tells me you had a slight attack of faintness 
in the afternoon. You look very poorly, my 
darling. Quite fagged ! That's what it is ; 
fagged ! I suspect you want bracing. I 
wish I had thought of asking those London 
doctors what they thought of sea air for you. 
We will send for Sumner — he's as clever as 
any of them — and ask him what he thinks of a 
month at Scarborough by and by." 


"I do not care for the sea very much," 
Mrs. John answered, " I get so tanned ; but 
I daresay Scarborough would be very nice 
for a change. But do not let us talk about it 
now, please ; I have so much to say to you, 
dearest Sir John ! I suppose you have 
noticed that Walter Duncombe has been with 
us a great deal lately, and I thought I should 
like to be the first to tell you that he wants 
to be my little Jacky's stepfather some day!" 

''The boy's stepfather!" cried Sir John. 
" Good heavens. Amy ! You do not mean 
to say you want to marry again r 

"Oh dear, no! Not for a long time, of 
course. My poor Jack is not quite a year 
dead yet ; but I could not say ' no ' to dear 
Walter, could I .^ He is so fond of me, and 
so — so — well — so anxious to be married. 
But I told him every thhig depended upon 
you, and that he must be patient and wait 
for a while. But you will let us be happy by 
and by, will you not, dearest Sir John T 


There was such a lump in the poor old 
man's throat that he could not speak at once. 

" I never thought of such a thing. Never !" 
he blurted out. "I — I don't approve of 
second marriages, and I cannot say that 
Duncombe is a man I like. Not that I 
know anything against him," he added 
hastily, afraid of having given needless pain, 
"and if your heart is set upon it, my dear 
girl, I must give in, of course. I must not 
let my old-fashioned prejudices stand in the 
way of your happiness. But you will leave 
me the boy, won't you, Amy ?" 

" Of course ! Of course," and she squeezed 
his hand. '' He ought to be yours ! And, 
dearest Sir John, you will not take my 
little fortune from me when I marry again, 
will you ? I know my beloved Walter does 
not want or expect anything with me, but I 
should like to have something of my own." 

"My darling! It delights me that you 
look upon me as a father. Do you think I 


could be such a shabby wretch ? ^ly son's 
widow must not be dependent upon any man. 
You shall have your jointure for your life, my 
dear ! Do not be uneasy. I believe my pet 
has been fretting about it all this time." 

" No, no, dearest Sir John ! Yes — papa, 
if you wish it," and she threw her arms round 
his neck and kissed him. " It was only this 
very day that Walter proposed to me. and I 
want you, please, not to speak to him about 
our engagement just yet, for nothing is 
settled. It is a very different thing that is 
worrying me, and I want you to help me. 
You know that dreadful woman Rossitur, my 
former maid, married darling Jack's soldier 
servant George Pottinger, and he went mad, 
poor wretch, the day my blessed angel was 
killed at the polo match. Yes ; you know 
all that. Well, he has been discharged from 
the asylum, or else he has escaped I — please, 
do not say a word until I have done — for I 
am sure he is as mad as ever — oh ! do please 


let me finish. I hear he is going about 
everywhere looking for Rossitur, and I am so 
afraid of seeing him ! Mad people have such 
an effect upon me ! You have no idea what 
it is." 

'' But my dearest girl, he is not mad now ; 
I assure you he is not. Why, I have just — " 

'' But I am sure he is ; and if he comes 
here worrying me about Rossitur, I don't 
know what will happen." 

'* He will be satisfied when he knows you 
can tell him nothing." 

'' But when he gets one of those mad fits, 
he always says I am his wife .^" cried Amy. 
" He nearly frightened me to death In Simla! 
I shall never forget it. Tried to drag me off 
with him ! It took three men to get him 
away from me ! He was perfectly mad, of 
course, but If It happened again it would kill 
me ; I know it would. Could you not have 
him shut up again ?" 

" But he is coming here next Tuesday !" 


exclaimed Sir John, driven to his wits' end. 
" And he is as sane as I am ! He will not 
take you for his wife !" 

" Coming here on Tuesday — to this house ! 
What do you mean ?" and Mrs. John turned 
a white startled face and frightened eyes upon 
her companion. *' Do you mean that you 
have engaged him as a servant ?" 

"He is coming here as my own man!" 
answered Sir John, his voice high pitched 
with excitement. 

As he spoke, his daughter-in-law fell back 
on the couch in a dead faint, and he rushed 
to the bell, and rang it violently. 



The whole house was speedily in a com- 
motion. The maid-servants came flying up- 
stairs in answer to the vociferous ringing of 
the bell ; Miss Lambton followed, looking 
scared and anxious ; Sir John gave a dozen 
contradictory orders In a breath, and a groom 
was sent off for Dr. Sumner. 

Less courtly and more suspicious than his 
London brethren, he rather bluntly hinted 
that tight-lacing might have something to do 
with these fainting fits, as Mrs. Ersklne's 
heart and lungs were In a perfectly sound 
condition ; but he acknowleged that there 
was probably some mental anxiety at work 
also. He also prescribed avoidance of 


fatigue and worry ; plenty of fresh air and 
cheerful society. And to Sir John's surprise, 
he wound up by giving his opinion that life 
in the country was perhaps too quiet and 
monotonous for the patient. '' You should 
have stayed in town a little longer," he said. 
*' A strong, healthy young woman like you 
could bear any amount of balls and theatres 
without feeling the worse for them. I should 
say dancing was very good for you." 

'' But Sir Blank Dash and Sir Dash Blank 
both ordered her out of London at once," 
cried Sir John. " It was killing her, they 

" Then, of course I am wrong," Dr. 
Sumner replied, blandly. " But let her have 
as much amusement and variety as you can, 
and, dare I say such a thing to a woman of 
fashion, an inch or two more round the 

"What a coarse, horrid creature," Mrs. 
John exclaimed, as soon as he was gone. 


'' Why did you send for him, dearest Sir 
John ? Such men never understand a deli- 
cate organisation like mine. I have been 
subject to these attacks ever since that un- 
fortunate man went mad when my poor 
darHng was killed, and they will pass off as 
soon as I am happy again." 

'' My darling ! I hoped you were happy 
at the Chase," said poor Sir John, plaintively. 
'' I am sure I have done my very best to 
make you so." 

''You have Indeed, dear Sir John. Have 
I ever reproached you with any shortcomings? 
Perhaps I ought to have fought against the 
thought of any new happiness apart from you 
and the dear Chase, but we cannot always 
command our feelings, can we ? And 
although, of course, as an officer and a 
gentleman, Walter Duncombe never allowed 
himself to utter a word that your son's wife 
might not listen to, I knew that he admired 
me in India, and now that I am free " 


Mrs. John pressed her handkerchief to her 
eyes and gave a Httle sob. 

" My dear ! My dear ! do not agitate 
yourself. You know I would not for the 
world stand in the way of your happiness ; 
but I hope you will allow the question of 
marriage to stand over until my boy has 
been a year dead. It is not too much to 
ask, I think, under the circumstances." 

" But I cannot have that man Pottineer, 
here," she exclaimed, suddenly. "It was 
what you said about him that upset me. 
I could not sleep if I knew he was in 
the house. Oh ! dearest Sir John ! if he 
comes I must go away at once. Nothing 
would induce me even to see him. I must 
marry Walter, and get him to take me 

" My dear girl ! My dear Amy ! Pray be 
calm. Do you for one moment suppose that 
1 want to drive you out of my house ? What 
is Pottlnger to me compared to you, my 


darling ? I shall write at once and tell him 
I have changed my mind about employing 
him. If I send him a cheque for a quarter's 
wages It will be all right." 

** I wish you could persuade him to emi- 
grate. Perhaps If you offered to pay his 
passage he would go to Australia or America." 

'* But, my dearest girl, I have no right to 
dictate to the poor fellow. Depend upon It 
he does not wish to leave England ; he wants 
to find his wife and child, and to make a 
home for them, I suppose." 

" Rossltur will never live with him," said 
Mrs. John, decidedly. '' Never. He need 
not think of It ; and If he really wants to find 
her he had better go to London. You do 
not know, perhaps, that she has been per- 
secuting Walter Duncombe to engage her as 
housekeeper ? She went to him at the 
Hermitage, and he had the greatest difficulty 
in getting rid of her." 

*' Then he knows her address, I suppose. 


Why not get it from him, and let me send it 
to Pottinger ?" 

" He would not give it to me, and I do not 
wish to know it," replied Mrs. John, peevishly. 
'' I take no interest in Rossitur since she 
treated me so badly ; but still, I could not 
answer it to my conscience to put that mad- 
man on her track. I believe he will kill her 
some day." 

'' Oh, no ! He is not mad enough for 
that, I hope. Your nervous state makes you 
exaggerate a little. And now, my dear girl, 
I think you ought to get to bed and have a 
good sleep after all this excitement." 

"And you will write to that man to- 
morrow ?" 

''Without fail, my darling. Good-night." 

The events of the evening were duly com- 
municated by Mrs. Erskine to Walter Dun- 

'* Only fancy," she said, '' if Pottinger had 
come here before I knew anything of it ! I 


tried to persuade Sir John to get him to 
emigrate, but he sees no necessity for it." 

" But it will be all right now as he is not 
coming ; and I am afraid you are taking the 
matter too seriously. If you had anyone in 
the world to deal with except that simple 
unsuspicious Sir John, he would ask why 
you worried yourself about that woman and 
her husband — ■ — " 

'' But I told him my reasons," interrupted 
Amy. " I said I was sure Pottinger was still 
out of his mind, and that in his mad fits he 
always took me for his wife." 

" Oh ; that is all right. My own opinion — 
but I am afraid you will not agree with me — 
is that you ought to let him come here. He 
would probably go raving mad in a week, 
and then he could be shut up — for life. " 

''Oh; it would be too dreadful! I could 
not bear it. I am perfectly certain I should 
break down at the last moment. If I could 
carry it through with a high hand it would 


finish the thing for ever, as far as he is con- 
cerned. I wish now I had stayed in London ; 
I am afraid to go out lest he should be 
prowling about." 

"If I find him in the grounds I'll make 
short work of him," said Duncombe, "but I 
do not think he will come here." 

The day but one after Sir John's promise 
to his daughter-in-law that Pottinger's en- 
gagement should be cancelled, Otway went 
to his wife's room after breakfast with a let- 
ter in his hand. " Look here," he said; " I 
suppose this is Amy's doing. Your father 
writes to say that he will not have Pottinger 
for a valet after all. He does not think it is 
safe to have a man in the house who has 
been in a lunatic asylum. He has written to 
him at the address he gave in London, and 
enclosed a cheque, and he asks me to find out 
if the poor fellow is there." 

"And why do you think Amy has anything 
to do with it ?" 



" Because, for some reason or other, I 
think she is in mortal dread of that woman 
Rossitur, and Pottinger being her husband, 
she may be afraid of him too. I cannot tell, 
of course, why she should be afraid, unless 
Rossitur has some hold over her; and it 
seems to me most unaccountable that Walter 
Duncombe should be making love to your 
sister-in-law, and keeping up communication 
with Rossitur as well." 

" But are we sure that Amy knows of his 
meetings with Rossitur — that is, if he does 
meet her ?" 

" It is impossible to say what she knows 
and what she does not know. If she is the 
dupe of Duncombe and Rossitur I am sorry 
for her ; if they are all playing into one 
another's hands and throwing dust into your 
father's eyes, I am sorry for him. I confess 
her motive is a mystery, but that there is 
something behind I am convinced. It was 
not on account of her health alone that she 


left town SO suddenly ; I believe she was 
afraid of meeting Rossitur." 

" I have had news from the Chase this 
morning, too," said Letty. '' Aunt Louise 
tells me that Walter Buncombe has proposed 
to Amy, but papa will not allow even a 
formal engagement until poor dear Jack is a 
year dead. They will not have more than a 
month to wait. She does not say anything 
about Pottinger, but Amy had a very bad 
fainting fit the evening before last." 

'' I do not believe in those fainting fits," 
said Otway. 

" Papa sent for Dr. Sumner, and he said 
the country was too dull for her, and that she 
ought to hare stayed in London." 

•'We had better send her an invitation to 
stay with us for the rest of the season," said 
Otway. *' What do you say ?" 

He was in jest, and Letty knew it ; but 
she answered, quiedy, '' If you wish it." 

•' You are very compliant, my dear child !" 


— how Letty hated to be called his dear child 
— ''but I think you forget that, if I am 
master of this house you are mistress." 

" But I should not presume to interfere 
with your wishes." 

"It is very good of you to say so, but I 
am in the happy condition of a man who has 
no wishes. I have lived to see the futility of 
cherishing hopes of any kind, and to recog- 
nise the wisdom of living without them." 

" And have you no hopes to live for now .^" 
she asked, half-involuntarily. 

" None worthy of the name. I am bring- 
ing out a reprint of the Essays I contributed 
at times to various magazines, but I cannot 
even hope that it will set the Thames on fire. 
May I have the honour of presenting you 
with a copy of it as soon as it appears ?" 

•'Thank you — if you have one to spare," 
she answered, indifferently. 

" I have no doubt there will be one to 
spare. By the way, have you sent out all 


the invitations for our dance yet ? Mrs. 
Ogilvey told me last night she had not got 
one. I hope you have not forgotten her," 

" Your hopes are not all dead, you see," 
Letty answered. '' But you may set your 
mind at ease ; the invitation was posted late 
last night." 

'' I know she is not a favourite of yours," 
Otway began. 

"If my favourites only were asked to the 
dance, it would be a very small one," Letty 
interrupted, quickly, " and I am very glad to 
ask yours. Will you kindly allow me to read 
papa's letter ?" 

'' My experiment is a failure," he said 
sadly to himself, as he went downstairs. 
"And Caroline's perception is at fault; she 
hinted to me last night that my wife loves 
me, and I think she dislikes me more and 
more every day. 

It was strange, but true. All the better 
part of Mrs. Ogilvey's nature had been 


aroused by the sight of Letty's too evident 
unhappiness ; with a woman's instinct she 
guessed the cause, and after a short struggle 
with herself, she resolved if possible to act 
the part of good genius to the man who had 
always been her true friend, by opening his 
eyes to the fact that his wife loved him. 


pottinger's search begins. 

After his short interview with Walter Dun- 
combe at the Chase, Pottinger took the train 
at Little Centre Bridge for Stillingfort. His 
one engrossing thought at that time was to 
get some information as to the whereabouts 
of his wufe and child. It seemed to him, 
with his poor, perplexed, excited brain, the 
oddest thing in the world that he should have 
any trouble in the matter. Two facts about 
her he was aware of ; he knew she had left 
India with her widowed mistress, and also 
that she was not now living with Mrs. John 
Erskine ; but he had no clue as to her move- 
ments after she left her situation, and he was 
not aware that some months had been spent 


in Italy by mistress and maid before they 
finally separated. 

If Bella wanted to hide herself from him, 
why had she allowed the news of her de- 
parture from India to reach him through 
the superintendent of the lunatic asylum ? 
What had happened to keep her silent from 
the time she reached England ? Was her 
silence accidental or had it a motive ? And 
why had she left Mrs. Erskine.^ That was 
also a mystery. But he knew^ his wife too 
well to believe that any action of hers was 
the result of accident. All her life she had 
looked ahead, and her mistakes, if she made 
any, were never the results of impetuosity. 
Passion might lead her into trouble, but it 
would be deliberate, not sudden passion. 

Pottinger was no logician, but only a simple, 
honest, and by no means brilliant fellow ; so 
he did not reason in this way, but he knew 
without reasoning that his wife would, in 
the events of her life, look well before she 


leaped. That was the way he put it to 

He was still doggedly attached to this 
woman, who had never been a very good 
wife to him. How well he remembered 
those happy days before they went to India 
— she as maid to Miss Gordon, he as soldier 
servant to young John Erskine — when he 
was "courting" her, and wondering at his 
own good fortune in being allowed to "keep 
company " with the finest and handsomest 
girl in the village. He was not a bad-looking 
fellow himself in those days ; and even 
now, when he took a little care, he was 
smart and soldier-like enough, but he seemed 
to lack heart, or energy, or inspiration, or 
something — he did not himself know what it 

It had come over him gradually out In 
India, this carelessness and want of spirit, 
for no matter how he looked, or what he said 
or did, he seemed, after a while, never to be 


able to please her. To be sure she had been 
true to her engagement and married him, but 
she was not the Bella Rossltur who had 
walked with him in the Stillingfort woods ; 
or, if she was the same, he had never known 
her in her true colours. 

But what was that dark shadow looming 
upon him out of the past ? Did it belong to 
the days that seemed, as he looked back 
upon them, so bright and blissful ? The 
man's memory was weak and unfaithful on 
many points ; he was apt to confuse names 
and dates, and even faces ; but, as he drew 
near Stillingfort, he all at once remembered 
poor Jem Hathaway, the young keeper, who 
had been Bella's lover too, and who had shot 
himself for love of her. 

" I suppose it did happen," Pottinger said 
to himself ''I did not dream that I heard 
Bella shriek, and saw Jem lying dead in the 
brush w^ood. Poor Jem ! As if Bella would 
have married the like of he." The dragoon 


soldier thought himself miles above the game- 
keeper in the social scale. 

'' If I could find her," he said, '' I might 
make her afraid of me by threatening to tell 
that I know she wrote the letter to my 
master that killed him. She stole it from, 
me when I was mad, but I remember every 
word that was in it except the name of the 
Frenchman. But I will not be hard upon 
her, if she will be good to me and not treat 
me like a dog, as she did in India ; I was a 
fool to give in to her so long ; but if she'll 
only be a good wife to me now, I'll work and 
slave to keep her like a lady, and speak 
never a word that is not kind." 

The Stillingfort people had by no means 
forgotten Pottinger. A man who had been 
in India ; who had gone mad from sunstroke 
and been in an asylum, was a sort of hero in 
his way. There is something almost ap- 
palling to the ignorant minds of those from 
whom the sun is hidden for so many months 


In the year, in the bare Idea that anywhere 
in the known world he can have power to 
strike men down and make them mad. And 
when Will Somers, the best mower In the 
county, reminded his mates who were dis- 
cussing with him Pottinger's altered ap- 
pearance, over their beer at the '' Forster 
Arms," that he had had a sun-stroke ' six 
years ago, that hot summer when all the 
ponds went dry,' he was asked contemp- 
tuously if he had gone mad ? 

Pottinger had no relations now living in 
the place ; but his wife's sister and her hus- 
band gave him a fairly hospitable welcome 
at the farm. But Alice could tell him 
nothing of Bella. '' She wrote to us once 
when your master was killed in India," she 
said, ''but as I was in trouble myself at that 
time about my brother, I never answered 
her letter, and I dare say she was offended. 
Bella had always a queer temper, and she 
thought herself above her father and me. 


She was proud of her brother Charles, 
because he was clever at music, and she 
hoped he would make a grand marriage. 
The wonder to me," Alice added, as she 
looked critically at her brother-in-law," is that 
she married you ! Her great ambition was to 
be a lady, and if you take my advice, George, 
you will not try to find her. How do you 
know she has not passed herself off as a 
widow and married another man ?" 

*' If I thought that," cried Pottinger, " I 
would search the world over until I found 
them both." 

" More fool you ! What would you do, 
then ?" 

" Kill her!" was the terse answer. 

'' Then I hope before you find her you will 
be mercifully shut up in an asylum. Can you 
not see that if she did not want to avoid you 
she would put herself in your way ?" 

" That is not enough for me. I am going 
into Sir John Erskine's service next week — 


my young master's father — and Mrs. John, 
the widow, will be able to tell me something 
about her. You do not think she went to 
Australia to her brother, do you ?" 

*' He is the last person she would go to." 

** And you never answered the last letter 
you had from her ?" 

"Well, I am not so sure about it, now I 
begin to think. I believe I wrote and told 
her of my brother's illness, and that he was 
going to marry Ellen Balfour, but I cannot 
be sure." 

" But you know nothing of her since she 
left India? You have seen no one who 
knows her ?" 

Alice hesitated and coloured. *'I heard a 
rumour about her — nothing more." 

** Let me hear it. I must hear it. For 
God's sake do not excite me by keeping me 
in the dark ! Come ; out with it, whatever it 


Well, then, this is what I heard, but I 


warn you that it is very little. One of the 
footmen at the Hermitage — that is a place 
belonging to a ^Nlr. Buncombe near Great 
Centre Bridge — is a Stillingfort man, and he 
told me when he was at home last month, 
that some time ago, the end of April I think 
it was, a person called to see his master — a 
very handsome young woman he said she 
was, with fair hair and dark eyes. She 
stayed some time, and when she went away 
his master walked with her to the railway 
station, and he says — but how he heard it I 
am sure I don't know — that his master called 
her ' Bella.' " 

Pottinger got as pale as death, and a wild 
angry light came into his eyes. " She went 
to /lis house," he muttered. " Then she 
must have been in this neighbourhood, and 
only this very day I was speaking to him, 
and he said he knew nothing about her. 
The villain ! And he was walking with 
my master's widow. I saw them together. 


What is there between the three of them ? 
What secret are they hiding from Sir John ? 
But I'll keep an eye on them, and when they 
are off their guard they'll let out where Bella 
is and what she is doing." 

Neither persuasion nor entreaty could in- 
duce Pottinger to remain at Stillingfort more 
than one night ; but he spent part of a day 
and a nio^ht at Great Centre Brido^e, whither 
he w^ent in the hope of finding some trace 
of his wife. It is almost needless to say that 
he went back to London unsuccessful ; and 
when he arrived at his lodging in town, he 
found a letter from Sir John Erskine, in- 
forming him that his engagement was can- 
celled. A cheque for twenty pounds was 

'' But I must see Mrs. John," said Pot- 
tinger to himself, "and tell her that Mr. 
Duncombe knows where Bella is if she does 


A madman's delusion. 

And to carry out this intention, Pottlnger 
again travelled down to Little Centre Bridge 
on the day that — If Sir John had not, to sat- 
isfy his daughter-in-law, changed his mind — 
would have seen him installed as a servant at 
the Chase. The loss of the excellent situation 
he had been promised was not a very great 
blow to the poor man — he was scarcely in a 
fit state of mind to realise the importance of 
work — rbut he was disappointed at not being 
able to make inquiries from his late master's 
widow respecting the extraordinary disap- 
pearance of his wife and child. Mr. Dun- 
combe had lately been In communication with 
Bella, or Bella with him ; Mrs. John Ersklne 



and Duncombe were on the best of terms, 
therefore she must know something of Bella. 
If they were all in a plot to deceive him — 
and what was more likely ? — he must pit his 
cunning against theirs, and never relax his 
endeavours until he had forced, or surprised, 
the secret they were so determined to keep 
from him. The extreme improbability that 
attached to his suspicions never occurred to 
him ; he saw nothing anomalous or disgraceful 
in the fact that Mrs. John Erskine should act 
as a go-between in secret for her former maid 
and the man who was received as a guest in 
her father-in-law's house. Had it not been 
whispered by the gossips in India that this 
Duncombe was an admirer of Bella's ? But 
when he left India the gossip died out, and 
he, as Bella's husband, had tried very hard 
to forget it. 

It was very good of Sir John to send 
him twenty pounds ; he could now afford to 
engage a suitable lodging for his wife and 


child ; he had not found them yet, it was true, 
but discovery of their whereabouts could not 
now be very far off. Mrs. Erskine would 
not remain deaf to his appeals, and in a very 
few days Bella and his little son would be 
with him again. 

With such thoughts as these in his head, 
and such hopes in his heart, Pottinger, not 
unnaturally, became more and more excited 
as he drew near his destination, and he 
talked volubly and more or less wildly to his 
fellow-travellers during the short journey ; 
but they all put him down as a harmless 
lunatic. He came down by an early after- 
noon train, and it was about five o'clock when 
he left the tavern in Little Centre Bridge, 
where he meant to spend the night, and set 
out for his short walk to the Chase. He 
calculated that from a quarter-past to half- 
past five in the afternoon he would find Mrs. 
Erskine at home. 

But in answer to his inquiry for her, he 


was told that Mrs. John Ersklne was out; 
and the footman further informed him that 
she was not expected home much before 
seven, as she and Miss Lambton had gone to 
a garden-party six miles off. 

Pottinger then asked if Sir John had gone 
with the ladies. 

No ; Sir John was at home. He had been 
to a meeting of magistrates at Great Centre 
Bridge, and had come back about half-an- 
hour ago. 

" Ask if George Pottinger can see him for 
five minutes," the visitor said ; and the foot- 
man carried the message to his master. 

" Bless me ! what brings him here ?" cried 
Sir John, testily. *' Let me see. What 
o'clock is it ? Oh ! only half-past five ! I 
can get rid of him before Amy comes back. 
Tell him I am very busy, Baker, but I can 
talk to him for five minutes." 

And presently, Pottinger hurried in, and 
shut the door behind him. 

A madman's delusion. 165 

"Well, my man, and what can I do for 
you ? You had my letter, I suppose ? 
Nothing wrong with the cheque, I hope." 

" No, Sir John ; it is all right, and I thank 
you kindly for it ; but, I hope your honour 
did not think I wanted compensation because 
it did not suit you to hire me. I am not 
one of that sort, Sir John, although I should 
have liked to wait upon your honour." 

" Well, the fact is, you know, Pottinger, 
you have not been quite right in your head ; 
and, although I dare say you are all right 
now, there are a lot of people in the house — 
women, and all that, you know, and if you 
were to have another little attack, or anyone 
fancied there was one coming on, some of 
them might be frightened, you understand. 
In fact, Mrs. John didn't seem to like the 
notion at all ; and as she is very nervous just 
now, I could not go against her." 

*' It was Mrs. John put you off?" said 
Pottinger, his suspicions on the alert in a 


moment. " I shouldn't have thought she was 
nervous ; she never showed no signs of It 
when she was in India, in the poor Captain's 

" But remember, the shock of her husband's 
death, Pottinger, must have had a great 
effect upon her ; she says herself, she has 
never been the same since." 

Pottinger gave a sort of chuckling laugh. 
'' Perhaps," he said. ''It isn't for the likes 
of me to say what fine ladies feel, and the 
Captain made more of she nor she made of 
he when he was alive. But, even if she's 
nervous now, Sir John, it won't hurt her to 
see me for five minutes, to answer a question 
or two about my wife — her as used to be 
Bella Rossitur, Mrs. Erskine's own maid. 
It stands to reason that Mrs. John must 
know more about her than anyone else, 
for " 

*' But I assure you, Pottinger, she knows 
nothing of her. I heard her say over and 

A madman's delusion. 167 

over again, that since they parted in Italy, 
she had seen nothing of Rossitur. Your wife 
left her at Sorrento, and my daughter-in-law 
has never seen her since." 

'' That may be so," replied Pottinger, 
doggedly, and his growing impatience and 
excitement showed in his voice and the 
restless working of his hands, "but I know 
for a fact that my wife has been seen in the 
house of the man Mrs. John is keeping 
company with, and if she doesn't know that, 
it's time she heard from me or from someone 
else !" 

" Do you mean to say that your wife has 
been in this neighbourhood lately ?" cried Sir 
John. " Let me see — now that you remind 
me, I think Mrs. John knew in some way, 
that she was in Great Centre Bridge in 
the spring. Yes, of course she was ; I re- 
member now, Mrs. Erskine told me she went 
over there one day to look for her." 

''I knew it! I knew it!" exclaimed 


Pottlnger, and he flung his cap away into a 
corner of the room. " They are all In the 
plot to hide her from me, and I must and will 
see Mrs. John! And they think I'm mad! 
That's what It Is, I suppose. They think I 
am not to be trusted ; but, If they want to 
set me mad, they are going the right way to 
work." He put his hands to his head, as If 
seized with a sudden pain, and cried out, 
piteously — "Oh, my God! keep me — keep 
me from going mad !" 

"My poor fellow!" said Sir John, kindly, 
"calm yourself. Depend upon It, Mrs. 
Ersklne will do her very best to help you. 
You know she can have no motive for 
keeping you In the dark about your wife ; 
but you must not excite yourself or I cannot 
allow you to see her. There now ! Go and 
pick up your cap and sit down quietly for a 
few minutes like a sensible man. You know 
what will happen If your head goes wrong 

A madman's delusion. 169 

Pottinger obeyed like a child. " God bless 
you, Sir John," he said, " you are very kind ; 
but you don't know the fear that comes over 
me sometimes. I feel as If everything was 
slipping away from me, and that I am going 
down — down, I can't tell where. If I could 
find Bella, sir. It would be all right. I want 
to be sure that she Is not hiding from me. I 
am only a rough Ignorant fellow, but no one 
knows how I love that woman. I don't brag 
of her as a good wife, your honour, but she's 
the w^oman I married for love, and I love her 

**You are a good fellow, Pottinger, and 1 
am sure you deserve a good wife !" Poor Sir 
John did not know what to say. 

" If you wouldn't mind. Sir John," Pot- 
tinger said in a changed voice, after a pause 
of a few minutes, *' I should like to see my 
poor young master's little boy. He's here, is 
he not, sir? He and my poor little chap, who 
may be dead for what I know, were babies 


together. Bella was just able to be up 
and about when Master Jack was born, and 
the poor Captain and me, your honour, was 
married the same week. Master Jack won't 
remember poor old Pottinger — not likely ; but 
if I might see him, your honour ?" 

" To be sure ! To be sure ! I should like 
you to see how he has grown ! He is the 
image of his mother ! I see no likeness to 
the Erskines at all, although some people 
will have it that he is like me." Sir John 
rang the bell, and sent word to the nursery 
that Master Erskine was to come down. 

And presently the nurse carried him into 
the room, and as soon as he was on his legs 
the little fellow raced to his grandpapa and 
climbed upon his knee. Sir John put his 
arm round him, and nodded to the nurse to 
go. " Now, Jacky," he said, ''you are to go 
over and shake hands with that man over 
there, and say, ' How do you do ?' He knew 
your own papa once." 


" My own papa!" the child repeated as he 
trotted over obediently, and held out his little 
hand to Pottinger. '' How do do, man ?" he 

Pottinger lifted the little fellow in his arms, 
and looked at him earnestly ; and Sir John, 
who was watching him, was struck by the 
odd puzzled expression that appeared upon 
his face. 

" Look at me. Master Jacky," Pottinger 
said, gently, but in an agitated tone. " Let 
me see your eyes." Then an awful moment 
followed, that Sir John never forgot. When 
the child turned its beautiful, dark, serious 
eyes upon him, Pottinger made a sound 
that was between a wild laugh and a sub- 
dued cry. 

" What is the matter .^" Sir John exclaimed, 
as he made a rush to take the child. 

But Pottinger started back, and held the 
little fellow fast. " He's not your grandson !" 
he shouted. '' He's my boy ! My little 


Georgy ! Do you think I don't know him ? 
He has his mother's face — her eyes — her 
mouth — he's her very Image. Who brought 
him here ? Are you In the plot, too ?" His 
voice rose higher and higher, and the now 
terrified child began to cry. 

" Put him down Instantly," cried Sir John, 
'' and leave the house ! Instantly ! Do you 
hear ? You are mad ! As mad as you can 
be ! If you stay here I'll have you shut up." 

To his surprise and relief, Pottinger put 
down the child ; but his excitement rose 
higher and higher. " I do not want the 
boy without his mother," he said, "and she's 
not far off. You are all in a plot to keep 
her from me ; but you did wrong to let me 
see the child. Ha ! ha !" and he laughed, 
*' Mrs. John would have managed better if 
she had been here. She would have sent 
down the right one. I am going now, but 
tell her I am coming back to-morrow to get 
my wife." 


He threw on his cap, and was gone 
before Sir John could utter a word. "Poor 
creature !" he said, as he watched him from 
the window. " He is quite mad. Dangerous, 
I am afraid. I wish Amy was here." 

At the moment, Amy was driving home at 
a smart pace along the Great Centre Bridge 
road from the garden-party ; and on the 
same road, chosen wholly by chance, Pot- 
tinger was rushing at full speed, impelled by 
the restless tortured spirit within. He was 
actually goaded to the very verge of madness 
by the suspicions aroused by the sight of the 
child he took for his own. 

In a cloud of summer dust he saw the 
carriage coming. The high-stepping greys, 
the handsome liveries of the servants, and 
the bright parasols of the two ladies, made 
quite a brilliant show on the high-road. He 
did not know to whom the carriage belonged ; 
and he felt but little interest in it, as he drew 
up panting under the hedge to let it go by. 


But, as it went rapidly past, he saw dis- 
tinctly the beautiful face of Mrs. John Ers- 
kine. She saw him, too ; and as her eyes 
met his for a second, she quickly lowered her 
parasol ; but, above the noise of the trotting 
of the horses and the roll of the wheels, she 
heard coming after her a wild yell such as a 
madman might have given ! The footman 
turned on the box. '' He is calling to us to 
stop, ma'am," he said, touching his hat. 

'' Pay no attention, but drive faster ! He 
is mad !" Mrs. John answered, imperiously, 
but her very lips had grown white. 

The horses trotted fast and yet faster ; the 
man tore wildly behind in pursuit ! He could 
not overtake the carriage, but he saw that it 
turned into the entrance gate of the Chase. 
Some instinct told him that he might, perhaps, 
be denied admission ; so, turning aside a little, 
he climbed like a cat over the boundary wall 
of the park, and reached the middle of the 
drive, just as the two ladies were entering the 


house. The door was still open when he 
reached It, and a footman was carrying an 
armful of light wraps across the hall. Pottln- 
ger waited until he disappeared, and then 
made a rush for the door of the room In 
which he had left Sir John. Opening it 
cautiously he looked in. Sir John was 
standing looking out of the window ; he had 
but just that moment walked over to It, so 
Pottlnger's re-appearance was unknown to 
him. He was therefore beyond measure 
startled to feel suddenly a sharp clutch upon 
his shoulder, and to hear the words shouted 
hoarsely Into his ear — 

''She's here! In your house! I saw her 
go in ! Bella ! My wife ! She's here !" and 
a wild laugh rang out through the open win- 
dows, and reached the room above ! And in 
that room, Mrs. Erskine was seated alone ; 
her face was deadly pale, and there was a 
look of terror in her beautiful eyes. 



Sir John, alarmed, not for himself but for his 
daughter-in-law, by the sudden re-appearance 
of Pottinger, was at first too bewildered to 
understand the wild words that the excited 
creature repeated over and over again. That 
the unfortunate man was demented there 
could now be no doubt ; indeed. Sir John 
had had no doubt on the subject from the 
moment he declared that little Jacky was his 
son! It was quite evident that he had now 
seen Amy, and, deceived by some fancied 
resemblance — people had said that there was 
a sort of likeness between mistress and maid 
— he had rushed to the conclusion that she 
was his missing wife. 


But to a madman, a delusion Is not a 
delusion but a certainty, and this notion that 
his wife and child were at the Chase, in the 
persons of Amy and her boy, having got into 
Pottinger's head, it would be almost im- 
possible to get it out again. The best thing 
would be to humour him, and if he made a 
row, and kept on coming to the house, and 
frightening poor dear Amy out of her life, 
Dr. Sumner must be called upon to interfere 
and the unfortunate man sent back to the 

And Sir John did not forget that Amy 
had said that, when Pottinger's fits of insanity 
were coming on, or had actually come, he 
always mistook her for his wife, and here 
was proof positive of the truth of her words ; 
for not only had he taken one woman for the 
other, but he had added to the worry and 
complication by mistaking the children also. 
Clearly, the only thing to be done at present 
was to humour him ; so, taking no notice of 

VOL. Ill N 


his frantic assertions, Sir John exclaimed, 
*' How you startled me, Pottlnger! Why, 
man, I thought you were gone ! What Is It 
you say ? You saw your wife ! Where ? In 
the town ? Well ? What have I to do with 

*' No ; not in the town, but driving in a 
fine carriage ! Your carriage ! And she came 
here to this house, and she Is in this house 
now ! It Is of no use to tell me she isn't. I 
saw her — saw her — saw her !" his voice rose 
with each repetition, '' dressed like a lady, and 
she looked beautiful ! A lady's dress becomes 
Bella ! Why don't you say that she is stop- 
ping here with the boy ? Why are you and 
Mrs. John keeping her from me? She's not 
afraid of her poor George, is she ?" the poor 
creature added, piteously. 

" My good man," said Sir John, slowly and 
distinctly, ''you are talking nonsense. Sheer 
nonsense ! I never saw your wife to my 
knowledge. Never ; on my honour ! And I 


am ready to take my oath that she is not in 
this house." 

" But I saw her drive up to it in a carriage. 
I saw her go in at the hall door, and an old 
lady with her. I was not asleep and dream- 
ing. She passed me on the road, and I ran 
after the carriage and shouted to her to stop." 

** Pottinger, you are so far dreaming that 
you are under a delusion. You have mistaken 
Mrs. John Erskine, your poor master's 
widow, for your wife. She drove up to the 
house just now, and came in ; but when you 
insist that she is your wife, what am I to 
think of you ?" 

Pottinger looked bewildered. ''Can I be 
off my head again?" he muttered. "That 
was not Bella, but her mistress ! There 
were people in the regiment who said they 
were like one another, but I never saw it. 
Bella was the finest woman ; a full inch taller 
than Miss Gordon, and more stately-like in 
her walk." 


"Very likely," said Sir John. "Mrs. 
Erskine is not very little, and she holds 
herself well." 

" And so does Bella. She's as upright as 
a dart, and goes along so easy and so soft. I 
always thought of the swans on his lordship's 
lake at Stilllngfort, when I saw Bella walk." 

" I think you had better go now, Pot- 
tinger," said Sir John, kindly. "You are 
stopping In the town, I suppose. I must 
talk to Mrs. Erskine about you this evening, 
and you shall hear to-morrow what she says. 
Perhaps, after all, she may be able to help 
you to find your wife's address." 

After some persuasion, Pottlnger went 
away ; his excitement had partly subsided, 
but he was by no means convinced that he 
had mistaken Mrs. Erskine for his wife. 

Sir John was Immensely relieved at the 
way Amy took the news of Pottlnger's ap- 
pearance ; she was already aware of his 
excited chase of the carriage, and she laughed 


heartily, if a little nervously, when she heard 
of his sudden descent upon Sir John in the 
library, to announce that he had seen his 
wife going into the house. 

" I hope you are now convinced that he is 
quite mad," she said. " His having mistaken 
me for Bella Rossitur is proof enough ; you 
know, I told you he always took me for her 
when his mad fits were coming on. And 
then the child, too ! That is a fresh craze. 
He will run off with Jacky some day if we 
are not very careful." 

'' Good gracious ! do you think there is any 
fear of that ?" cried Sir John, in great alarm 
for the safety of his grandson. " And then, 
if homicidal mania came on, no one can tell 
what might happen. Really, I think I had 
better get Sumner to act, and have him 
taken care of. He must not be allowed 
to be at large. What do you say, my 

*' My dearest Sir John, did I not say 


from the first that he was mad, and madmen 
ought to be shut up ? I cannot go on hving 
in terror of my Hfe, both on my own account 
and the child's ! And yet it seems hard 
upon the poor, deluded creature." Then 
after a moment's pause, she added, suddenly, 
'* Suppose I see him alone and talk to him 
seriously ? I may be able to persuade him to 
go away." 

Sir John demurred ; he had fifty objections 
to make, but ultimately he gave in, as he 
invariably did, to the strong will of his 
daugher-in-law ; one stipulation he made, 
however, that during the interview he was to 
be within call. 

And accordingly the next day Pottinger 
was sent for, and when Sir John told him 
that he must be on his very best behaviour, 
as Mrs. John Erskine had consented to see 
him, such an expression of rapture came into 
his eyes, and upon his face such a look of 
gladness and relief settled, that Sir John was 


positively startled. " Now it will be all 
right," he said, softly, to himself. 

Sir John took him to the morning-room, 
where Amy was waiting for him ; but he was 
by no means easy in his mind as he shut the 
door and left the two together. Amy did 
not appear at all nervous, but she might 
lose her self-command at any moment. His 
anxiety and alarm would not have been 
lessened had he remained to see Pottinger 
rush forward and fall on his knees before the 
beautiful woman who rose as he came near. 
But she was not quick enough to avoid 
him ; he seized her hand, and pressed it 
passionately to his lips, exclaiming as he 
did so — 

*' Bella ! Bella! Have I found you at last, 
my darling ?" 

Not a muscle of Mrs. Erskine's face 
moved ; she looked down with an expres- 
sion in which contempt and dislike were 
mingled, and pulling her hand away with a 


jerk, she said in a cold, clear voice, '' So 
you mean to keep up that farce ? Why, 
you foolish man, you do not expect to be 
believed, do you ?" 

At the sound of her voice he got up and 
fell back a step or two. "It is you who are 
keeping up the farce," he said, in a low, half- 
frightened tone. 

She laughed, and seating herself with her 
back to the light, she pointed to another 
chair at a little distance, and said, imperiously, 
'' Sit down, Pottinger. I want to talk to you." 

He obeyed, and resting one elbow on his 
knee, he put his chin on his hand, and 
looked with an eager, anxious, longing gaze 
into his companion's face. 

'' In the first place," she said, " I think it 
is very impertinent of you, George Pottinger, 
to come down here, when Sir John told 
you he did not intend to take you into his 
service ; but when you came you ought to 
have been more cautious. What do you sup- 


pose people will say when they hear that 
you insist upon taking me for your wife ^ 
Why — that you are mad, of course." 

"If you are not Bella, where is she?" he 
broke in, and his eyes flashed savagely at 

''If I am not Bella! Really, Pottinger, 
you are too absurd ! Let me ask, do you 
want to be shut up in a lunatic asylum for 
the rest of your life, or do you not ?" 

'* I want my wife," he answered, sullenly ; 
and before Mrs. Ersklne could speak again, 
he rose, and bringing his hand down on the 
table that stood between him and her with a 
violent bang, he cried out — '' and I have 
found her ! By the heavens above us this 
■day, I swear that you are Bella Rossitur, my 
wife ! Deny it if you dare, woman !" and 
before she was aware of his object, he had 
pushed the table aside, and was standing 
before her with her wrists tightly gripped in 
his burning hands ! 


She did not quail or cry out ! Looking 
into his excited face with calm, cold eyes, 
she said In a tone of command, " How dare 
you touch me ! Attempt it again, and I shall 
ring for help! Do you suppose I am afraid 
of you ? You may go and proclaim from 
one end of the country to the other that I 
am not Mrs. John Ersklne, but your wife 
Bella Rossltur, and I deny It ! You hear 
— I deny It ; and not a soul will believe 
you. Do you hear me ? No one will believe 
you ! 

'' Then where is my wife ? Find her for 
me ; or tell me where to find her." 

" I know nothing of your wife, and I want 
to know nothing of her. Neither do I care 
whether you find her, or spend the rest of 
your life looking for her ; but I warn you 
that if you persist In mistaking me for her 
you will have reason to regret it. Come 
now, Pottlnger, be sensible. Beg my pardon 
and Sir John's, for all this annoyance, and 


take this little present from me — for the 
poor Captain's sake." 

She took some gold from her purse, and 
held it out to him. 

" Beg your pardon ! Take your money — 
for the poor Captain's sake !" he repeated. 
" No, thank you — Mrs. Erskine. I suppose 
I am mad and mistaken, but your money will 
not cure me." 

"No one will call you mad if you do not 
go about the country saying mad things," 
she put in. "And you had better take the 

" No — not if I were starving. And I am 
not too mad to hold my tongue," he added, 
''for I do not want to be shut up. I want ta 
have my liberty, that I may be able to see 
what happens. I am obliged to you, Mrs. 
John Erskine, for letting me see you. It 
shows your courage ; but remember " — he 
turned back from the door just as he was 
about to open it, and going up to her, he 


put his lips close to her ear — '' remember, as 
long as I am alive, my wife Bella Pottinger, 
cannot marry again. If you know where she 
is, give her that messsage from me." 

Mrs. Erskine drew back hastily, and passed 
her handkerchief across her lips. " Anything 
more ?" she said, with a feeble attempt to 

''Yes. Tell her if she forgets I am alive 
and marries, I'll hunt her down and shoot 
her as I would a dog !" 

Not the faintest sign of fear appeared 
upon Mrs. Erskine's face as the threat was 
uttered. She may have turned a shade or 
two paler, but she held her head erect, and 
kept her beautiful eyes fixed with a steady 
stare upon the face of her companion. '' Will 
you go now, or must I have you turned out ?'' 
she said. 

He took no notice of the question, but 
broke out into a string of. the vilest and 
most opprobrious epithets that ever assailed 


a woman's ear. His face was inflamed and 
distorted with passion, and he looked as if he 
were about to fly upon her and tear her Hmb 
from limb. 

But with her eyes still fixed upon him, 
she walked to the bell and laid her hand 
upon it. " If any one sees you in this state, 
and hears your language, you know the 
consequences," she said. 

He answered with a curse, and she drew 
down the handle of the bell sharply. 

The action seemed to sober him for a 
moment. He put his hands together and 
stretched them towards her in humble sup- 
plication. "Bella! Bella !" he cried. "Have 
mercy ! You loved me once !" 

She laughed in his face. The footman 
was already in the room in answer to her 
summons. "Take that person away, Baker," 
she said, "and on no pretext allow him to 
enter the house again. He is quite mad." 

" Yes, ma'am. Come ; clear out, will you .^" 


At the door, Pottlnger wrenched himself 
free with a sudden twist ; turned, shook his 
closed fist at the woman, who, with her hand 
pressed to her side, now stood leaning for 
support against the table, and said in a voice 
that rang sharp and shrill with the fury that 
was raging within him, the one word, '' Re- 
member !" 



Herbert Otway and Letty rarely dined 
alone, and the night of their dance at Rut- 
land Gate, Filmer was their guest. Letty 
was looking unusually pretty in her ball dress 
of ivory satin, draped with clouds of soft lace, 
and for ornament, a diamond and sapphire 
necklet and pendant, which Otway, with 
much ceremony, had presented to her that 
morning. That is, he had sent the case 
containing the jewels to her room, with a 
polite request that if they suited the dress 
she had chosen, she would do him the favour 
to wear them at the ball. 

He looked at her with the coldly critical 
glance she had begun not only to shrink 


from, but positively to loathe, when he joined 
her In the drawing-room before dinner, and 
she felt as If she could have flung his costly 
gift at his feet and rushed from the house 
for ever. Her present life became more and 
more unbearable every day ; for every day 
the hope that some love for her still lingered 
In his heart died out. She did not know 
how eagerly he had been watching on his 
part for some sign that she was less flinty, 
and less unrelenting than she seemed. At 
the slightest show of softness or womanly 
feeling towards him, he knew that his pride 
would take wing, and that even the fear of 
a second repulse would not keep back the 
declaration of his love. But she was like Ice 
to him still, and she seemed to grow colder 
and colder every day. 

He knew nothing of the storms of passion 
that broke when she was alone. He never 
guessed that more than once — more than a 
dozen times, she had stolen to his study door 


when she knew that he was within, and 
had stood there longing, but afraid to enter. 
Longing to throw herself at his feet to beg 
for the love she had once so scornfully 
repulsed, but so frightened and ashamed of 
her impulse, that she fled upstairs again, 
and, by increased coldness of manner, tried 
to prove how indifferent she really was. 

As Otway looked at her on this particular 
evening, seated at the head of his table, 
beautiful but unhappy — he could not, he 
thought, misread the expression of that 
lovely pensive face — a feeling of rebellion 
against fate which had so misused him was 
mingled with a sense of remorse that he had, 
perhaps, blighted that fair young life. But 
for him she might have been a happy woman 
now. His thoughts went back to the day 
he saw her for the first time, driving her 
spirited little ponies through the High Street 
of Little Centre Bridge, and he could recall 
at will the look, half of relief and half of 
VOL. in. o 


saucy defiance, with which she accepted his 

A Hfetlme had seemingly passed since that 
little episode ; he went back over his court- 
ship ; his engagement ; his most miserable 
wedding-day, and his life since the separation, 
with the friendship of Mrs. Ogilvey to make 
up to him for the want of Letty's love. He 
could have laughed aloud as he reviewed It 

Mrs. Ogilvey herself had been a puzzle to 
him of late. There was a time when he could 
not blind himself to the fact that were It 
possible for her to do so, she would bestow 
upon him herself and all her wordly goods ; 
but now, he was by no means sure that any 
such desire was In her mind, in spite of the 
fact that she never lost an opportunity of 
hinting to him that his happiness was In his 
own hands, and that he was wilfully and 
blindly turning his back upon it. 

It must be confessed that he did not try 


very hard to fathom her meaning, and he was 
scarcely to be blamed If he interpreted it now 
in one way and now in another ; or that he 
sometimes felt an irresistible desire to cut 
himself adrift by one bold stroke from the tie 
that was so evidently galling to poor Letty. 
Why should he keep her bound when he 
knew she was an unwilling captive ? Once 
free, she might find happiness with a man 
more fortunate than he. And for himself.'^ 
Well, he would most probably drift into a 
marriage with Mrs. Ogllvey. He did not 
love her, but she had been a loyal friend 
to him ever since she had confided to his 
keeping the grave episode In her life, already 
known to readers of this story. That a 
woman can outlive and overlive the folly 
of youth, Is, in Itself, a recommendation to a 
man who, like Otway, has endured one 
deep and cruel disappointment. 

Letty was very silent during dinner ; she 
was making up her mind to ask Otway 


to allow her to return to her father at the 
end of the season, and her proposal would, 
she knew, be followed ere long by a further 
proposal for the annulment of her marriage. 
But, unlike Otway, she was making no plans, 
not even vague ones, for the future. She 
was not likely to drift Into marriage with 
anyone ; and as soon as Amy was Mrs. 
Duncombe, the Chase would feel like home 
once more. 

Otway told Fllmer the latest news from 
Stoneshire, and Arthur listened with the 
greatest Interest to the account of Pottlnger's 
re-appearance, and of his extraordinary state- 
ment. " The fellow Is undoubtedly mad !" 
he said. ''But I should like to have this 
mystery about Rossltur cleared up." 

''Mrs. Otway" — he always spoke to 
Filmer of Letty as "Mrs. Otway," — "thinks 
she has some hold over Amy ; but I confess 
it seems to me improbable. I think the 
woman simply wants to keep out of her 


husband's way, and Mrs. Ersklne and Walter 
Buncombe may be helping her to do so. It 
is very wrong of them, but we cannot 

As far as the arrangements were con- 
cerned, Mrs. Herbert Otway's dance was one 
of the most successful of the season. The 
rooms were not too full ; the music was 
delicious ; the supper perfection, and the 
host, if not the hostess, attentive ; for poor 
Letty went about among her guests with a 
smiling face but a heavy heart. Otway was 
always particularly courteous to her in public, 
but on this evening he was inattentive, if not 
neglectful. Indeed, he addressed her but 
twice, and on each occasion he spoke rather 
sharply, upbraiding her for her preoccupied 
and listless manner. 

The ready tears rose to her sad eyes 
at his sharp tone and unloving words. From 
the expression of his face, she could tell that 
when he addressed Mrs. Ogilvey the voice 


was gentle and kind ; and the words he said ? 
— Ah ! What those words were, who could 

But, by accident, before the weary night 
was over, she overhead part of a conversation 
between him and this favoured guest. She 
might have moved away from the seat Into 
which she had thrown herself, tired and worn 
out In mind and body, when she said good- 
night to the last guest but one. That one 
was Mrs. Ogilvey, and she and Otway were 
together on the balcony, upon which the ball- 
room opened. Letty could see the two 
figures distinctly enough in the shadowy 
light, but, at first, only a faint murmur of 
voices reached her ears. She was trying, 
without any scruple, to hear what was said, 
and she had fallen into a sort of half-dreamy 
state, when she suddenly started broad awake! 
She fancied she heard her husband's voice in 
her ear. And it had come to her from 


'* You do not know how happy you have 
made me, Caroline." That was what he 

'' Your blindness has often surprised me,'* 
was the answer, so low that she barely 
caught it. Her fingers tightened involun- 
tarily round her fan, and she made an effort 
to rise ; but her limbs seemed powerless, and 
with a low moan she sank back. 

He spoke again. " Little knowing what 
I should hear, I was half- afraid to let you 
know the truth," he said. " But I am glad 
you guessed, and I w^ish now with all my 
heart that I had spoken before. I have 
been very, very unhappy, but my heart has 
been lightened of its load to-night. I thank 
you again and again for making my confes- 
sion so easy." He raised his companion's 
hand to his lips as he spoke. " I w^as afraid 
you would laugh at my weakness, and instead 
— Oh, Caroline ! I cannot tell you what I 


" And you will never know what it has 
cost me to say what I said to-night," she 
answered. " You know now, I hope, the best 
as well as the worst of me, and I rejoice with 
all my heart if it has been my good fortune 
to put you on the road to happiness. Every- 
thing now depends on " Letty did not 

catch the next word distinctly, but she 
promptly filled up the blank with '' ourselves." 

" But you will be happy, and — I " The 

speaker put her handkerchief to her eyes, 
overcome with emotion. 

'' Dear Caroline," Otway answered — and so 
tenderly, Letty thought — ''believe me, you 
will be happy too ; you took a noble resolve 
to-night, and one you will never regret. It 
w^ould have been too cruel to leave me any 
longer in ignorance." 

Letty started to her feet. Why should 
she spy upon them and wound herself to the 
quick at the same time ? She walked hastily 
up and down the deserted ballroom, with her 


brain in a whirl and her heart throbbing 
violently. The end had come sooner than 
she thought, and she must face it boldly. 
She went back to the window with the 
intention of passing out on the balcony, to 
remind the belated guest that the ball was 
over, by saying " good- night ;" but, as her 
foot was on the ledge, she heard Otway say, 
" You may depend upon me. To-morrow 
evening, at Charing Cross, in time for the 
six o'clock train." 

The rustle of his wife's dress behind him 
caught his ear ; he turned quickly. '* Is it 
all over, Letty ?" he said, and he laid his 
hand upon her arm. 

'' Yes," she answered ; and she drew back 
so suddenly that his hand fell. "It is all 
over. I came to say good-night to Mrs. 

'' Good-night, dear. I am " she was 

interrupted by the fall of Letty's fan. She 
picked it up before Otway could stoop, and 


then she turned away quickly to re-enter the 
room. Her face was burning. Her soft 
eyes were ablaze. '' Good-night," she said 
again, and disappeared. 

As she passed out of their sight, Otway's 
eyes met those of his companion, and they 
both smiled. 

" Perhaps it is all for the best," she said, 

in answer to his look. 



There was little sleep for Letty that night. 
The final extinction of her long cherished 
hope, that time might put an end to the 
unnatural estrangement between her and her 
husband, was, In Itself, a most bitter blow ; 
but a million times worse was the certainty 
that, at last, Otway — her hero — the man 
whom she looked up to as the very soul 
of honour, was about to free himself from an 
obnoxious tie by dragging his own name, and 
that of the woman he no doubt meant one 
day to make his wife, through the mire. It 
was intolerable. Why should he do this 
thing ? He was not a thoughtless. Impetuous 
boy, and Mrs. Ogllvey was not an impatient. 


unexperienced girl. She must know that she 
was about to forfeit her social position, and 
blight her reputation for evermore. A little 
time, a little patience, a few explanations, 
some work for the lawyers, and then Otway 
would be free to marry, and no slur could be 
cast upon her. 

It was not possible that they feared op- 
position from her— from the wife who was no 
wife, but who, unfortunately for herself, was 
now so much in love with the man she had 
rebuffed and insulted, that the mere sound of 
his voice, or of his footstep on the stairs, 
made her heart beat fast with delight. 

But he should not be allowed to ruin 
himself while her voice could be raised to 
prevent him. She would go to him, tell 
him what she had heard, and implore of him 
by all he held sacred to draw back while 
there was time. If she prevailed, all 
would be well — for him ; if not, why then, 
it was the ignomony of failure added to 


the load of unhappiness she had now to 

But she was not able to carry out her 
intention. Otway, she found on inquiry, had 
gone out after an unusually early breakfast, 
and he had left word that he did not intend 
either to lunch or dine at home that day. 
But it was possible, Letty thought, that some 
time, either before lunch hour or in the 
afternoon, he might come back. Indeed, it 
was certain that he would come ; he must 
have some preparations to make for the 
journey he was about to take that night. 
Charing Cross, at six o'clock ! The place and 
the hour were stamped on poor Letty's brain. 

Slowly, very slowly, the weary day crept 
on. Letty watched and waited and listened, 
but Otway did not come, and she felt at last 
that her courage was failing, and that she 
could bear the suspense no longer ; so she 
made up her mind to write a few lines and 
leave them for him on his table in the study. 


She sat down, and In a minute or two she had 
finished a short but most passionate appeal 
to him to break the appointment he had 
made with his friend the evening before. 
He had but to tell her — Letty — what his 
wishes really were respecting the annulment 
of their most unfortunate marriage, and in a 
very little time he would be free. Mean- 
while, the best thing she could do would be 
to go back to her father without delay. 

She felt relieved as soon as her somewhat 
incoherent epistle was finished and placed 
where Otway could not fail to find it when 
he came home, and with all her heart she 
hoped he would come before six o'clock. 
But if he should not come ? In the face 
of that contingency, Letty made up her mind 
to ascertain beyond all doubt whether he and 
Mrs. Ogilvey left London together that 
evening ; so she put on a dark dress, a plain 
mantle and bonnet, and leaving the house on 
foot, she walked a little way towards Knights- 


bridge, and then took a hansom for Charing 
Cross. She would have to wait a long time, 
it was true ; but to wait in the bustle and 
turmoil of the railway station would be less 
trying to her than to wait in the empty 
silent house at Rutland Gate. 

She had barely got as far as Hyde Park 
Corner on her way East, when Otway 
reached home, found her letter awaiting 
him, and read it with an amazed and puzzled 
face. It was some time before the meaning 
of the words dawned upon him. 

" Good heavens !" he said at last, *' She 
thinks I am going to elope with Caroline 
Ogilvey. ' I think 07t/y of your happiness.' " 
He read the words over and over again. 

The woman's hand had trembled as she 
wrote. The man's heart trembled as he 
read. " What does she mean ? I must 
know. My happiness has been in her hands 
any time these three years, and how has she 
used me ? But this night must end it one 


way or the other. Love and pride, or rather 
the fear of another repulse more galling than 
the first, have had a long fight, and love wins ; 
or is it a man's desperate resolve to have by 
right what he cannot win by love ? ' I think 
only of your happiness.' " He pressed the 
letter passionately to his lips. " My dar- 
ling !" he murmured. " If it were but true." 

But it was getting late ; the timepiece in 
the room had chimed the half-hour after four. 
He rang the bell and asked if Mrs. Otway 
was at home. No ; she was out. He felt 
half-sorry and half-relieved to hear it ; he 
had no time then for the full explanation he 
longed for, as he had an appointment that 
must be kept. He would just write a few 
lines to disabuse her mind of the absurd idea 
she had taken up, and then, when they met 
later on 

He ran up to Letty's own sitting-room, 
and seated himself at her writing-table ; but 
there was not a scrap of paper lying about 


that he could use. He turned over the blot- 
ting paper in the hope of finding a blank 
sheet, and he was surprised to come upon 
another note in Letty's handwriting. It 
began " Dear Mr. Otway." But a glance at 
the date told him that it was written some 
months before. From the date he looked at 
the signature, and this was what he read — 
" From your own loving, sorry, ashamed, 
repentant and broken-hearted wi/e, Letty." 
Could he believe his eyes ? She had thus 
subscribed herself nearly a year ago, and yet 
he well remembered the formal epistle that 
had reached him instead of that precious little 
note. Surely she had written those words 
in irony or in jest ? i\nd if she meant 

them, ^/ie7i /" His brain was in a whirl, 

and Letty's little chimney-clock just before 
him struck five. He put the letter into 
his pocket and started up. He had not 
time to write to her now ; in truth, if the 
whole day were before him, he could not 



write, and what did It matter if her delusion 
lasted just a little longer ? By and by she 
would stand before him, blushing and beauti- 
ful, and with her own sweet lips speak those 
words, "Your loving wife." 

Five minutes later, with this enchanting 
vision still before his eyes, he was bowling 
along to Queen's Gate Terrace in a hansom. 

At a quarter to six, Letty, from the post of 
observation she had taken up at Charing 
Cross station, saw, first Mrs. Ogilvey's maid 
with her mistress's travelling - bag and a 
bundle of wraps ; behind her came a porter 
with luggage on a hand-truck : three boxes, a 
portmanteau and a hat case. Presently Mrs. 
Ogilvey herself emerged from the booking- 
office, leaning on Otway's arm. Letty noticed, 
with some surprise, that, although he wore a 
light summer ulster, he had not got on a 
travelling-hat ; but, no doubt, It was in the 
hat-case, and he would put it on in the train. 

She was surprised at herself for noticing 


such a trivial detail at such a time ; but her 
excitement had almost wholly died out, and 
she seemed to herself as if she were looking 
on at a pair of ordinary travellers in whom 
she took no real Interest. That tall, hand- 
some man who looked so radiantly happy — 
yes, there was no other word for it — was not, 
could not be the Herbert Otway who had 
loved Letty Erskine in the days that were 
no more. He was some man whom she did 
not know. But it was Otway's voice ; she 
heard it quite distinctly as he asked his com- 
panion what books and papers she would like 
for her journey. A bitter little smile crossed 
poor Letty's lips, as she thought that with 
him to bear her company she had no need 
for books or papers. 

And now it wanted but five minutes to 
the hour, and the passengers were passing 
through the gate to the departure platform. 
Otway, Mrs. Ogilvey and the maid went 
through together ; and then Letty stationed 


herself at the barrier, and watched through 
the paHng for the departure of the train. Or, 
rather, she meant to stand there until it 
steamed out of the station ; but when she 
saw Otway step into the carriage in which 
Mrs. Ogilvey was already seated, a feeling of 
such utter despair, such blank misery at her 
own impotence to hold him back from the 
act he w^as committing, came over her, that 
she turned away sick at heart, and so 
physically weary that she could hardly stand. 

How she found her way out of the station 
and into a cab she never knew. Great throbs 
of pain were shooting through her head, but 
the agony of knowing that all was now over, 
was even harder to bear than the racking 
pain. At last she reached the welcome 
shelter of her own room ; her maid was there 
waiting to dress her for the evening, but she 
was quite unfit for the exertion. 

'* I am too tired to go out to-night," she 
said. '' Put away those things and give me 


a tea-gown. What o'clock Is it ? Not seven 
yet ? Very well. I can rest until eight. Do 
not disturb me again." 

The girl went away, and Letty went into 
her sitting-room and lay down on a couch 
near the open window. She was too tired to 
think any more just then, and besides, all 
the thinking in the world would not undo 
what Jie had done that afternoon. By to- 
morrow the world — her world and his — 
would know what had happened ; he would 
be blamed — she pitied. But nothing mattered 
now. A dead, blank wall of misery had come 
down before her when she saw him step into 
the train just one hour ago, and through it, 
or beyond it, she could not see. 

And the relief of sleep, the sleep of ex- 
haustion, mercifully came upon her as she lay 
there in her quiet room. The daylight was 
beginning to fade and the room to grow 
shadowy, when she suddenly awoke. A 
noise close by, as if something had moved, 


disturbed her. She started up, resting on 
her elbow. She was not alone ; there was a 
man leaning against the mantelpiece ; his 
face was turned away, but his figure seemed 

"Who are you?" she said. "What are 
you doing here ?'' 

There was no answer, but the man turned 
and looked at her, and the fuller light from 
the window showed her who it was. 

It was her husband, and the radiant look 
was still on his face. 



Surprise, and a not altogether unreasonable 
sense of alarm, struck Letty dumb. Now 
that she was awake again, was her brain 
affected ? — was it a phantom and not Otway 
in the flesh ? How came he in her room 
when she had seen him step into the train 
which was by that time forty or fifty miles 
from London ? Was It all a dream ? The 
appointment she heard made the night before 
— the miserable hours she had spent that day 
waiting for his return — the scene at Charing 
Cross — the drive back to Rutland Gate — was 
it all a bad, horrible dream, or was she 
dreaming now ? 


She got up, pushed back her hair, and 
passed her hand across her eyes, as if to 
dispel the sense of unreaHty ; but Otway did 
not vanish as a phantom is bound to do ; he 
simply said in the most matter-of-fact voice, 
"You look surprised to see me! Perhaps I 
ought not to intrude upon you in this room 
without permission ; we stand on such cere- 
monious terms that an apology seems 
necessary. But if I may stay for a few 
minutes " 

" You are very welcome," she answered, in 
a voice that sounded strange even in her own 
ears. '* I — I did not know you were at 

" Yes ; I know. I left word that I was 
not coming back to dinner ; I was due at 
Gravesend an hour ago, and I meant to run 
down from Charing Cross. I went there to 
see Mrs. Ogilvey off to join some friends in 
the Engadine — she sleeps at Dover to-night, 
and crosses in the morning — but I changed 


my mind and sent a telegram instead." As 
he was speaking, he struck a match and 
lighted the candles on the chimney-piece ; 
then he watched Letty closely, and saw the 
look of relief that gradually overspread her 
sweet, haggard face, as she gave a deep sigh. 

" I was at Charing Cross," she said, so low 
that he scarcely caught the words. " And I 
saw you there with Mrs. Ogilvey." 

" You were at Charing Cross !" he repeated. 
'' Why did you go there ?" 

She did not answer. 

"Letty! I Insist upon knowing," he said, 
in a tone of command. " Remember, I am 
your husband and I have a right to be obeyed. 

She flushed deeply as she went a step or 
two closer to him. "You forget, do you 
not," she said, "the terms upon which we 
agreed to live together ? Besides," she added, 
" if you got a letter I left for you, you can 
guess why I went." 

He smiled as he looked into her troubled 


face. "And did you really think that Mrs. 
Ogilvey and I were going to run away 
together ? 1 should like to know how such 
an absurd idea came into your head." 

'* I overheard part of your conversation 
with her on the balcony last night," answered 
Letty, boldly. " I was not eavesdropping," 
she added, quickly, '* I was close behind you 
at the open window ; if you had turned your 
head the least bit in the world you must have 
seen me." 

*' I saw you as it was," replied Otway, 
quietly, " but I did not think you could hear 
what we said. Indeed, I am sure now you 
did not hear all, or you would not have made 
such a mistake. However — all's well that 
ends well, you know. Mrs. Ogilvey is on 
her way to the high Alps ; I am here at 
home. Have you nothing to say to me ?" 

She hesitated a moment before she replied ; 
then she said, '' My letter explained every- 


*' Oh ! there are letters and — letters," he 
answered. "What letter are you alluding 
to now ?" 

" I know of but one," she returned, sur- 
prised at the question. "We are not in the 
habit of writing to one another, I think." 

" No ; but I fancy you could write a very 
charming letter if you tried, and the one you 
left for me to-day was not amiss in some 
respects, although you were under a delusion 
when you wrote it ; but there is one passage 
in it that requires explanation, or it may be 
that I am too stupid to understand it." 

" I tried to make it very plain," said poor 
Letty. She did not understand the tone 
Otway was taking ; he had seated himself in 
an easy chair, and looked as if he meant to 
stay for some time ; she stood by her writing- 
table facing him, and idly fingering every- 
thing within her reach. 

" I came up here this afternoon to write 
you a note," he said, "and I am afraid I 


tumbled the things about a little. I must 

" I saw no note," Letty began. 

" No ; It was not written. I found some- 
thing very interesting — at least to me ; and 
by the time I had examined it, it was too 
late to write ; I had to be off to Mrs. 

"Was It my new pen-holder that interested 
you ?" Letty asked, as she looked about, 
wondering what he had found. 

Otway laughed. '* No ; something better 
than that. Do you know, child," he went 
on, after a pause, " I cannot help being 
amused at your idea that I was going to 
elope with Caroline Ogilvey ? Do you mean 
to tell me seriously that you think I am in 
love with her ?" 

Letty made no answer and her eyes were 
not raised. 

*' Look at me," he said, "and tell me the 
truth. When you heard us talking on the 


balcony last night, did you think I was in 
love with her ?" 

*' Yes," was the answer, very low. Then 
more confidently, as the beautiful eyes full of 
wistful sadness were raised to his face, '' I 
did not think it unnatural. Do not suppose 
I blamed you ; but I was very sorry you did 
not tell me you wanted to be free. The 
delay w^ould not have been very long, and I 
— I " her voice broke suddenly. 

'' What did you mean by those words 
in the letter you left for me .^" he asked, 
abruptly, and he rose as he spoke, and stood 
before her. " You said, ' I think only of 
your happiness.' What do you mean by 
my happiness '• Did you think of it on our 
wedding-day when you thrust me from you 
with loathing and contempt in your face I 
My only crime was to love you so well that 
I was your humble, devoted slave. You 
little knew the pain, the cruel, bitter anguish 
you inflicted upon me that day, and yet you 


talk of my happiness. The wound you made 
has never healed, for only the hand that 
inflicted It can make It whole. But the day 
you left me at Richmond, I swore that you 
should kneel at my feet and ask for my love 
before I took you back to my heart again, 
and a hundred times at least I have been on 
the verge of breaking my oath. My love for 
you would not — will not die. It Is thrust 
Into the background of my life because I 
dare not give It expression. I could not risk 
a second repulse like the first. But Caroline 
Ogllvey found out my secret, and she Im- 
plored me last night not to let pride stand in 
the way of my happiness; but I am a coward, 
I am afraid to say, ' Letty, I love you !' " 

He never took his eyes from her face as 
he poured out these mingled reproaches and 
protestations, and, as she listened, she turned 
from pale to red — her lips parted, and her 
heart was beating so wildly that she could 
scarcely breathe ; gradually her eyes, In 


which the sadness had given place, first to 
surprise and then to joy unspeakable, were 
lifted again to his face. They met his, which 
were speaking a language she never hoped 
to hear, and glowing with a light she never 
hoped to see again, and, with a faint cry, she 
threw herself on her knees before him ; 
covered her face with her hands, and, in a 
voice husky with fast-coming tears, cried out, 
'' Oh, Herbert, forgive me ; with all my 
heart I love you ; and if you do not care for 
me, I should like to die !" 

To such an appeal, but one answer was 
possible from him. The words themselves, 
the tone in which they were uttered, rang so 
true that they thrilled him like martial music. 
He took her hands in his in a close im- 
perative clasp, and, raising her to her feet, he 
clasped her to his heart in a long, silent 
embrace. Truly the thoughts of both were 
too deep for words ! 

" Letty, is it true ?" he whispered at last, 


as with one hand he pushed the disordered 
hair off her forehead, and looked earnestly 
into her beautiful shy eyes. " Does my wife 
love me at last? Is my life to be at last 
worth living, or am I dreaming one of those 
happy dreams from which I have so often 
wakened to find myself a lonely and dis- 
appointed man ? My darling ! My own 
precious one! Mine at last! Oh, say, with 
those sweet eyes looking into mine, that you 
love me !" 

'' I say it with all my heart, Herbert. Oh, 
do not doubt me any more." 

'' Do you know, my Letty," he said, 
presently, " I think I have been a great 
fool " 

'' I ^now I have," she Interrupted. '' It 
was not your fault ; you had but too good 
reason to be angry with me." 

*' And when did you find out that you did 
not dislike me, my darling ?" 

''Oh, a long time ago. The day you 


scolded me so dreadfully in Halkin Street. 
Don't you remember ?" He nodded and 
laughed. '' You looked so — so handsome 
and so angry, and you made so little of me. 
You were so masterful and scornful, that I 
longed to rush into your arms and ask you 
to forgive my folly and love me again. I 
was your wife, you know ; there would have 
been no harm in it." 

" Harm! The harm was -in not doing it. 
Why did you not ? Oh, you foolish Letty !" 

" Because you said so positively you were 
learning to despise me, I was afraid you 
would not like it." 

" My darling ! It was what children call a 
big story. Despise you ! I may have tried, 
but I did not succeed. I used to long, to 
pine for you. I was weary for the sight of 
you. Oh, if you knew what I felt the day I 
found you at Miss Masham's ! But I was in 
such mortal dread of a second rebuff that I 
tried to be cold and proud." 

VOL. in. Q 


'' And SO you were. You did not seem 
afraid of anything. You were satirical and 
contemptuous and " 

" Desperately in love," he interrupted, 
kissing her. "And now I want to know 
why, when you wrote this letter, you did not 
send it ?" and he took from his pocket the 
note he found in her blotting-book and held 
it before her. '' I found it to-day, and it 
was heart-breaking to know that nearly a 
year ago you signed yourself, ' my loving 
wife.' Why did you not send it, you cruel 
girl ?" 

She nestled her head upon his breast while 
his arm encircled her in a close embrace. 
*' You know now," she whispered. 

There was silence for some minutes ; her 
face was half-hidden from him, and he felt, 
rather than knew, that tears were stealing 
down her flushed cheeks. 

" Letty," he said, at last. She looked up. 
" Now that I am on the high-road to happi- 


ness, I begin to feel hungry. Do you think 
there is any dinner to be had ?" 

'* I never thought of dinner," she cried, 
'' Please let me ring and order something." 

And that was how the long estrangement 
ended and a long honeymoon began. 



" I HAD an extraordinary piece of news this 
morning," said Sir John, about a week later. 
" Herbert writes to say that he and Letty 
are off to America in a day or two for a tour 
in the States, to wind up with Florida, to 
pay his brother and your sister, Amy, my 
dear, a visit. Otway writes in the wildest 
spirits ; never was so happy in his life. 
'My darling Letty sends her love and a 
thousand kisses.' Fancy a man writing that 

"And I have a letter from Letty herself," 
said Miss Lambton. '' She writes in capital 
spirits too. Says she is looking forward 
with great delight to the American trip." 


" Does she call him her darling Herbert ?" 
asked Sir John. 

"No, but she speaks • of her dearest 

'' That is all right," and Sir John laughed 

" I consider that all the credit of bringing 
those two together belongs to me," said Mrs. 
Erskine. *' Don't you think it does, dearest 
Sir John ?" 

'' I think you deserve credit for everything 
that is kind and sensible, my love," he 
answered. " How do you feel to-day? Had 
you a better night ? You begin to look more 
like yourself again ; but you must go out 
more ; it is very bad for you to be shut up in 
this way." 

She gave a little shudder that was not 
affected. "Oh, no!" she said, "I cannot 
go out ! I am so afraid of seeing that mad- 
man again ! You do not know the half of 
what I went through that day." 


'' My darling girl, I think you behaved in 
the most spirited and courageous manner, 
and I shall never forgive myself for leaving 
you alone with him. Good heavens ! I often 
think if the fellow had been armed ! One 
never knows, Sumner told me, when homi- 
cidal mania may be developed in a diseased 

" Are you quite sure he has not come back 
to the town ?" 

" I think we may be quite sure. If he is 
there he is keeping very quiet ; but then, he 
knows that if he breaks out again as he did 
here the other day, he must be shut up. 
There is one thing I want to say to you, my 
dear girl. I think now, as I thought when 
you expected Pottinger to come and see 
you, that if you have the slightest clue to 
Rossitur's address, you ought to give it to 
him. After all, she is his wife, you know." 

''But why should I deliver the poor woman 
over to the tender mercies of a mad husband ? 


I believe he would kill her. I have no reason 
to show her much consideration, for she 
treated me very badly, but I could not do her 
such an 111 turn. Besides, I do not know 
where she Is now ; she was certainly In Great 
Centre Bridge In the spring, for she went to 
the Hermitage to see Walter ; forced herself 
upon him, he says." 

"Ah! /le says. I should like to know 
what Rossltur has to say about It." 

'' My dearest Sir John, why are you so 
suspicious ? Rossltur Is not to be depended 
upon. She would tell one thing to you and 
another to me. And if I am satisfied. Is It 
not enough ? She did force herself upon 
Walter, just because he admired her, and 
used to flirt with her a little, when she was 
my maid in Calcutta. But all the young 
men did the same. Rossltur has not the 
slightest hold upon Walter." 

" And you do not think he knows where 
she is, or that he goes to see her .^" 


" I am perfectly certain that what he 
knows of Rossitur I know also ; but I am 
not going to betray the unfortunate woman 
to her husband. Oh ! how weary I am of 
the w^hole thing. I wish I had never come 
to England to be so worried. Aunt Louise 
says I ought to be able to tell whether that 
child at the Rectory is Rossitur's or not. 
How can I tell .^" 

'' Never mind, my darling. Of course, 
you cannot tell. I must get you away to 
Scarborough and brace you up." 

"Walter thinks we might be married 
quietly — very quietly — while we are away," 
she said, in a slightly embarrassed manner, 
*' and then he would take me abroad for the 

" My dearest girl ! Must I lose you so 
soon again ? I think he is very inconsiderate 
to hurry you so. You do not want to be 
married before next spring, do you, Amy ?" 

" I think spring would be time enough," 


she answered. " But I cannot think of 
anything while that man is at Hbertv to 
come and worry and frighten me. Oh, if he 
were but shut up again I" 

"And he must be shut up, if he does any- 
thing outrageous," said Sir John.' "Make 
your mind quite easy on that point, my dear. 
I am not oroinQ^ to have vou worried and 
tormented while I have power to prevent it."" 

But, at the very time this discussion took 
place, Pottinger was living, it might be said 
hidinor, at Little Centre Brldo^e. When he 
was turned away from the Chase by Mrs. 
Erskine's orders, he exerted all his powers 
of self-control and restraint to keep from 
violence, well knowing that any transport of 
rao^e or excitement would at once consio^n 
him to the asylum he had so lately quitted. 
And he was certainlv on the vero^e oi insanitv 
when he found himself expelled with igno- 
miny from the presence of the woman he had 
boldlv claimed as his wife : but he was not 


too far gone to be unable to think with some 
amount of coherence over what had taken 

''If she Is not Bella," he said to himself, 
'' let Bella be produced. I have been mad 
for so long, I may be under a delusion ; and, 
If she Is Bella, where Is my master's widow ? 
That Is the puzzle. If she Is alive she would 
be here ; If she Is dead, Sir John would know 
It. I must be mad, and yet — and yet — If a 
man does not know his own wife, or mistakes 
another woman for her — well, he must be 

He went back to London ; gave up the 
lodgings he had taken for his wife, and went 
back to Little Centre Bridge, with no definite 
purpose In his mind, except that of watching 
Mrs. Ersklne and Walter Duncombe. And 
the better to carry out that design, he dis- 
guised himself, before he started, with a 
bushy black beard that entirely covered the 
lower part of his face, and dressed himself, 


not like a servant, but a workman. And, 
under the shelter of his altered appearance 
he was, at the very time his conduct and his 
whereabouts were being discussed by Mrs. 
Erskine and her father-in-law, working in 
the great kitchen-garden of the Chase, one 
of the half-dozen men who were employed by 
Sir John all the year round. 

It was by one of those curious chances 
which now and then take place that he got the 
situation. An advertisement in the Stone- 
sJiire 3Te7^c2cry, for a ''couple of handy men," 
appeared the morning after he reached the 
town ; he applied at once ; was engaged, and 
set to work directly. And there, under the 
very eyes, so to speak, of Mrs. John Erskine, 
he spent his days, keeping his mouth shut 
and his eyes open. 

During the first week he heard incidentally 
that the "young mistress" was unwell and 
confined to her room, in consequence of a 
fright she had had from a madman, who had 


escaped from a lunatic asylum, and the police 
were on the look out for him to have him 
shut up again. He was a lunatic and no 
mistake, one of Pottinger's fellow-workmen 
said, for he wanted to claim the young mis- 
tress and Sir John's grandson for his wife 
and child. 

Pottinger listened, and said nothing ; in- 
deed, he soon became remarkable for his 
silence, and went by the nickname of "Dumb 
Harry." He had given the name of Harry 
Millar when he applied to the gardener for 

The day after the last-mentioned conversa- 
tion between Sir John and his daughter-in- 
law, Harry Millar, looking up from his work 
at the sound of voices, saw coming directly 
towards him, Mrs. John Ersklne, and beside 
her Walter Buncombe. They were engaged 
in very earnest conversation, and neither of 
them as much as glanced at the man with the 
beard and the restless eyes, who touched his 


hat in a furtive and half-sullen manner as they 

Mrs. John was speaking. " I dare not 
venture into the woods again," she said. "He 
might be lurking about there ; this is the 
safest place. There is no one to hear what 
we say." 

They walked on, and ''Dumb Harry" 
watched them until they disappeared into a 
rarely used summer house at the top of the 

And the following day, and for the rest of 
the week, at the same hour every afternoon, 
they made use of the deserted garden house 
for a prolonged /^/^-^-///6' ; certain there, if 
nowhere else in the house and grounds, of 
being safe from interruption. But an un- 
suspected listener was close at hand. Every 
day, about ten minutes before the pair ap- 
peared in the garden, " Dumb Harry " left 
his work, and, while they remained in the 
summer house, he remained undiscovered 


behind it. And through the narrow chinks 
between the boughs of which the house was 
built, the voices were heard, sometimes dis- 
tinctly, sometimes the reverse. 

And much that they said was unintelligible, 
•even when the words were not lost ; and many 
times he heard his own name, and a man 
far more stupid and less interested than he, 
could have told that the pair were lovers. If 
they but knew who was so near. It seemed 
to Pottinger sometimes that he must un- 
consciously betray himself. But his self- 
command was greater than he knew, and 
the man and woman whom he watched so 
eagerly were too much absorbed in one 
another and in the nature of their conver- 
sation to suspect the presence of the one 
eavesdropper In the world who was most to 
be dreaded by them. Had It been other- 
wise, one or the other, glancing aside, might 
have noticed the wild and savagely gleam- 
ing eyes that were glaring at them from 


behind the refuge they thought so safe and 
so unapproachable. 

And while during those interviews he 
lurked unseen, and the rage of a mad 
jealousy grew to an almost ungovernable 
height, Pottinger gave up for ever the idea 
that a delusion had turned his brain. 



The summer was beginning to wane, and 
the day was at last fixed for Sir John, Miss 
Lambton, Mrs. Ersklne and her boy to leave 
for Scarborough. Mrs. John had opposed 
the plan as long as she could find any 
reasonable objection to make to It ; but she 
gave In at last. It was but too evident to 
all those about her — although she would 
not admit It herself — that she was suffering 
from extreme nervousness and restlessness, 
and that change was becoming absolutely 

She made an immense effort, that was 
plain enough also, to appear the calm, In- 
dolent, self-possessed fine lady who had, in 


the course of a few weeks, usurped gentle 
Miss Lambton's place in the house ; fas- 
cinated Sir John ; made him the slave of her 
whims and fancies, and set the tongues of 
Little Centre Bridge and the neighbourhood 
wagging, either in praise of her beauty or 
in abuse of her haughty scornful manner. 

She had not, it is true, resigned in favour 
of Miss Lambton, nor relaxed in her efforts 
to keep Sir John enslaved by her charms ; 
but she was changed in many ways, and her 
anxious and devoted father-in-law put it all 
down to the way she had been terrified by 
that "mad fellow Pottinger," and he blamed 
himself for having brought the man about 
the house. But the bracing air of Yorkshire 
would soon, he said, make his favourite like 
her old self again ; and, if it would make 
her happy to marry Duncombe, and to go 
abroad with him, why — he must sacrifice his 
own feelings and let her go. It was the 
fate of old people to be alone and lonely ; 



and he must not repine as long as he had 
the boy. 

Several of Mrs. Erskine's habits had 
changed of late, and among them her habit 
of late rising. She was now the first to 
appear, and because she said it amused her 
to give out the letters, Sir John allowed her 
to have the key of the post - bag and to 
distribute its contents. His correspondence, 
good man, was open to all the world, and 
Miss Lambton's was the same, and, for the 
matter of that, so also was Mrs. John's, but 
the state of feverish expectancy in which she 
lived made her watch even the contents of 
the post-bag. 

It was a brilliant morning about the middle 
of August. Breakfast was laid in a small 
room In the front of the house, generally 
used by the family when they were quite 
alone, and through the open windows could 
be seen three or four men, one of whom was 
*' Dumb Harry," raking and rolling the gravel 


outside, and for the first time Amy noticed 
the man with the big beard. 

'* What an odd-looking man that is/' she 
said to Sir John. '* Is he a new comer ?" 

'* That is Millar, a man Campbell picked 
up somewhere," Sir John answered. ''A very 
good workman, but a morose, silent fellow, 
they tell me. xA-h ! Here comes the bag at 
last ! Now, Amy, my darling, where is your 
key ?" 

She gave out the letters and papers one by 
one. There were two from New York : one 
for Sir John and one for Miss Lambton. 
These were eagerly opened, and the readers 
of them were so absorbed in their contents, 
that the sudden fall of the now empty letter- 
bag from Mrs. John's hand was quite un- 
noticed. As it slipped from her, she sank 
down, quite unable to stand from the 
trembling of her limbs, and her face had 
blanched suddenly to a livid and alarming 
pallor. In the hand that lay upon her lap, 


she held a small envelope bearing a French 
stamp, and the post-mark was Paris ; it was 
addressed in a woman's writing, but not to 
Mrs. John Erskine. She was grasping, as if 
her life depended on the possession of that 
thin foreign envelope, a letter that was not 
meant for her. But she knew the writing 
only too well, and not for worlds would she 
hand the letter down the table to Sir John, 
its rightful owner. Her agitation presently 
passed away unnoticed ; the pallor lightened 
on her face ; the trembling of her limbs was 
less violent, and, looking up, she glanced 
curiously first at one and then at the other 
of her companions. 

They were not thinking of her just then, 
so she set her lips together, and, with a hand 
that was firm and cool, opened the letter she 
held and read it through ; and as she read, 
she slipped the envelope into the pocket of 
her dress. It took her about five minutes 
fully to master the letter itself, for it was not 


short; the four sides of the thin foreign paper 
were covered, and when she had finished, 
she folded it deHberately and put it also into 
her pocket. Then she drank greedily, as if 
her lips were parched, the coffee that re- 
mained in her cup, and, getting up, she went 
over to Sir John, laid her hand caressingly 
on his shoulder and said — 

''Can you send a message to the Hermit- 
age for me directly ? I want to see Walter. 
I — I have just heard of the serious illness of 
a — a very dear old friend, and I must run up 
to town by the afternoon train. You have 
no objection, I suppose ?" 

"What — what is it ? I beg your pardon, 
my dear; I did not hear. You want to go 
to town to-day ? My dearest girl ! You 
must not go alone." 

*' Now, Sir John, I knew you would say 
that ; but I must go alone or not at all.'' 
Then she made a long explanation to the 
effect that it would be much easier for her 


to give her time and thoughts to her poor 
suffering friend, if she were not worried by 
knowing that she was keeping Sir John or 
Miss Lambton in town to look after her. 

And he gave in presently, as he always 
did, to her wishes, and it was finally arranged 
that she was to stay in town for a week ; at 
the end of that time, Sir John, Aunt Louise 
and the boy would join her, and they would 
all go to Scarborough together. 

'' The poor old lady will be either better 
or worse by that time," she said, as she 
wrote down the address in town of her 
friend's house, and gave it to Sir John. 
** You may remember we drove there one 
afternoon when you met me in town on my 
way from Sorrento." 

" To be sure ! To be sure !" replied Sir 
John ; but he did not remember it all the 

The note that was sent off by special 
messenger to Buncombe by Mrs. John, 


contained the words, " Come over at once. 
You can catch a train that will bring you 
here by one o'clock. Circumstances I did 
not foresee oblige me to do what you have 
been urging upon me for so long, and I 
leave for London at 4-30. Be prepared for 
a surprise when we meet for the last time 
in the old garden house. I must indeed have 
nerves of iron to be able to go through what 
I must go through to-day ; but, so far, all is 

The men were still raking and rolling the 
gravel sweep in front of the house when 
the groom rode round from the stables to 
get his instructions from Mrs. John. She 
was standing at the bottom, of the steps with 
Sir John, laughing and chatting in a gay and 
sprightly mood, and twisting the note in her 

*' I am very sorry you have to go to-day, 
darling," Sir John said. '' I cannot bear 
parting with you even for a week. Take 


care, my love ! The man Is coming with his 
roller." It was "Dumb Harry" who was 
working so close to them. 

" Oh ! But a week passes so soon," Mrs. 
John answered. "You will not have time to 
miss me." 

When Walter Duncombe drove up from 
the station soon after one o'clock, the gar- 
dener's men were just leaving off work for 
the dinner hour ; but when they came back 
again to finish their work, the man with the 
beard was not with them. He was In ambush 
behind the garden house, w^altlng. 

And on that afternoon, If never before, the 
pair for whose coming he watched so eagerly, 
forgot their usual caution, and he was thereby 
enabled to hear almost every word they said, 
and what he lost was lost by reason of his 
intense excitement ! He seemed to have no 
power In his eagerness to catch the exact 
meaning of what passed. But he heard 
and understood enough to send the blood 


surging through his brain ; for a few seconds 
at a time he seemed almost blind, and, had 
he moved, he would have reeled and stag- 
gered like a drunken man. But he never 
moved ; for over half-an-hour there he stood, 
with his distended and bloodshot eyes fixed, 
and the palms of his hands pressed upon his 
temples, and his fingers buried in his hair, to 
keep down, as it were, by sheer physical 
force, the cry that was rushing to his lips. 

i\t length Mrs. Erskine rose and Dun- 
combe with her. Her face was deeply 
flushed, and her eyes were troubled as she 
fixed them upon her companion. He took 
her hand in his and drew her towards him. 
" I cannot honestly say I am sorry it hap- 
pened," he said, and there was a distinct note 
of triumph in his voice. 

" But I am!" she broke out, passionately. 
" I hoped it would never happen. I thought 
she was too indolent — too selfish. And do 
you suppose I cannot see what the end will 


be by and by ? Years may pass before 
you can redeem your promise, and by that 
time " 

'* By that time the man who made It will 
be unchanged." 

" And If you do change, what does It 
signify ?" she answered, defiantly. " There 
is always a way out of everything. I dare- 
say, all things considered, you think I am 
over particular ; that I have done too much 
to make a fuss about doing a little more, 
and — Hush ! What Is that ? Is there any- 
one about who could hear what we say ?''' 
and she tried to run outside, but Duncombe 
held her back. 

*' Stay where you are and calm yourself," 
he said. '' Do you want to betray every- 
thing ? I must take you in now, or someone 
will come to look for you. But first let us 
say good-bye until to-morrow." 

As their lips met in a farewell kiss, Pot- 
tinger's hand moved swiftly to his breast ; 


but he withdrew it as swiftly, and it fell to 
his side empty ; but, as in a vision, he saw 
himself standing by Bella Rossitur's side in 
Stillingfort Woods the night Jem Hath- 
away, after trying to commit murder, shot 

'' Not yet and not here," he muttered, as 
he crouched down in his hiding-place, until 
Buncombe and Mrs. Erskine were out of 

At a quarter-past four, the carriage from 
the Chase drew up at the Little Centre 
Bridge railway station. It contained Mrs. 
John Erskine, Sir John, and Walter Dun- 
combe. Mrs. John was going to London, 
quite alone ; not even her maid was to 
accompany her. 

She talked incessantly! Charged Sir John 
with messages to her boy and to Miss Lamb- 
ton, who had promised to write every day to 
let her know how he was. She leaned on 
Buncombe's arm, while Sir John took her 


ticket and saw the luggage labelled, and she 
kept on talking in a voluble and excited 

" Every moment I think he will rush up to 
me !" she said. *' I am sure he is in the town 
and that he saw the carriage. I wish the 
train would come !" 

" What are you talking about?" asked Sir 
John, coming up. ''Who saw the carriage?" 

" I have such a nervous dread of seeing 
that wretched Pottinger," she answered. 

" But why do you think he is in the town ? 
I saw that black bearded fellow, Millar, who 
works in the garden, just now, and I asked 
him what he was doing here, and he said he 
had come to fetch a parcel for Campbell. 
He was standing under the clock there, not 
thinking of his parcel, but admiring you, my 
dear, like the rest of us ! He never took his 
eyes off you ! Here comes the train. Be 
sure you telegraph from Victoria, to say how 
you got up, and write to-morrow. Good-bye. 


Take care of yourself." He put her Into a 
carriage, and then stood back to let Dun- 
combe have the last words. 

" You could not have done it better !" he 
whispered. " Do not break down now. To- 
morrow will soon be here, and then " 

'' Stand back !" shouted the guard, and 
then blew his whistle ! The train was in 
motion, when a belated passenger made a 
rush forward, and, amid the shouts of 
porters, one or two of whom tried to pull 
him back, he scrambled Into a third - class 
compartment and banged the door after him. 
Sir John and Duncombe both saw him dis- 
tinctly as the train passed on. 

'' Why ! it's that fellow with the beard !" 
cried Sir John. He turned laughing to his 
companion, but stopped short, struck by 
the expression of his face. " What is the 
matter ? What has happened ?" he cried. 

'' That fellow with the beard Is Pottlnger !" 
exclaimed Duncombe, in great excitement 


*' I know him by his eyes — and she is alone ! 
What are we to do ? When is the next 
train : 

'' There is not another for three hours," 
replied Sir John. 



Sir John was not alarmed when Buncombe 
declared he had recognised Pottinger by his 
eyes ; he thought he was deceived by a 
fancied resemblance. Besides, even if it 
were Pottinger, the officials at Victoria would 
soon interfere and hand him over to the 
police if he molested Amy on her arrival. 

However, as soon as he got home, Sir 
John went to Campbell, the gardener, to 
ask some questions about the man with the 
beard ; but he heard nothing to corroborate 
Buncombe's suspicion that he was Pottinger 
in disguise. Campbell was doggedly certain 
that Millar was just what he said he was — a 
workman. He had asked for a couple of 


hours that afternoon after dinner, and if he 
had gone off In the train he deserved a joba- 
tion, if not dismissal, for his pains. No ; it 
was certainly, not true that he, Campbell, had 
sent him to the station for a parcel. *' Parcels 
for the Chase were always delivered ; they 

While Sir John was still In the garden, 
a footman came out with a message from 
Miss Lambton ; a lady and gentleman, who 
had arrived half-an-hour before, were still 
waiting to see him, and Miss Lambton hoped 
he would come as soon as possible. Sir 
John hurried in, and his sister-in-law waylaid 
him in the hall. 

''I do not know who they are or what 
they want," she said. " They told Baker 
you knew they were coming. The man is 
French, but I think she is English, and she 
has such a look of Amy ! Fair hair and 
dark eyes, but a more babyish face. He is 
very nice-looking. I only saw them for a 


minute, for I had the Sumners and Mrs. 
Verity here until this moment. 

''I do not expect anyone ; there must 
be some mistake," said Sir John. '* Some 
friends of Amy's, I dare say. Where are 
they? In the drawing-room?" 

He went in and found awaiting him a re- 
markably handsome young Frenchman, and 
a very pretty woman, charmingly dressed in 
black. " By Jove !" he said to himself, 
" Louise is right. She is like Amy, but 

Neither of the strangers spoke. The 
woman looked nervously at her husband ; 
the husband looked encouragingly at his wife. 
'' Courage, my angel !" he said at last in 
French, and she immediately advanced a 
step or two. 

" I hope you are well, Sir John," she said. 
'' I got so frightened when you did not come. 
I said to Victor, ' He will not see me.' " 

Sir John was extremely puzzled by this 

VOL. III. s 


address. What did the woman mean ? ''I 
am delighted to have the pleasure of receiv- 
ing you, madam," he said, " although I have 
not the honour of knowing you or this 
gentleman. I was not at home when you 
came. I have been to the railway station to 
see my daughter-in-law off to London." 

The lady gave a little cry of surprise 
and clasped her hands. " Victor ! Do you 
hear ?" she exclaimed. " Oh, speak for me ! 
Tell him !" 

" Do we understand you to say that your 
daughter - in - law has just left by the train ?" 
The Frenchman spoke in excellent English, 
and with very little accent. 

'' Yes, sir. My son's widow — Mrs. John 
Erskine. She is my daughter-in-law. Per- 
haps your visit is to her ?" 

'* No — no — no !" cried the lady, and run- 
ning to him she caught Sir John's hands. 
''I am your daughter-in-law — your son's 
widow ; and this gentleman — Monsieur de 


Louvain, Is my second husband. We were 
married at the EngHsh Church in Naples, 
last January, and I just came over now to 
see my little Jacky, and to ask you not to be 
angry with me for marrying Victor ! You 
were very angry, I know, because you never 
wrote. But you do not seem to understand 
what I am saying! Is not this the Chase? 
Are you not Sir John Erskine, and have you 
not got my boy ?" 

''I am certainly Sir John Erskine, and this 
Is the Chase, and my grandson is in the house, 
but you are not my poor boy's widow." 

" But I am ! You must believe me ! I 
can prove it in a hundred ways ! Oh, it is 
cruel of you to call me an impostor just 
because I married again ! And I let you 
have the boy, too ! Victor, what am I to 
do ? Can you make him believe ?'' She 
was beginning to cry. 

" My angel ! Calm yourself," and Mon- 
sieur de Louvain took his wife's hand ten- 


derly In his own. " It will all be right by 
and by. Sir John, I assure you, on my 
honour, we are speaking the truth. This 
lady, when I married her, was the widow of 
your son. Captain John Erskine, who was 
killed while playing polo in India. She was 
formerly Miss Amy Gordon. I had the 
great happiness of becoming her husband the 
beginning of this year, and our marriage is 
registered in the English Church at Naples. 
Her little son she sent over to England to 
your care." 

While de Louvain was speaking, Sir 
John's face was a study. Surprise ! incredu- 
lity were there, but gradually they gave way 
to an expression of blank bewilderment ! 
Then came a sudden contraction of the wide- 
open eyes, and a deep flush of anger, as a 
horrible suspicion that he had been cleverly 
tricked and most cruelly deceived darted 
through his mind ! 

'' But, good heavens, sir !" he broke out, as 


soon as the Frenchman had finished, '* If this 
is all true, who Is the woman who came here 
from Sorrento last March, with a child ? 
She wrote to me as Amy Ersklne — the 
widow of my son Jack ! And as his widow 
I received her — settled money on her and 
introduced her to the county ! She was even 
presented at Court as Mrs. John Ersklne, 
and I — I loved her for his sake! It Is not 
two hours since she left the house to visit a 
sick friend In London, with * Mrs. John 
Ersklne' on the labels of her boxes! If 
you are my daughter-in-law Amy, madam, 
who Is she ?" 

" Has she fair hair and dark eyes like 
mine ?" cried Madame de Louvain, In great 
excitement. '' Is she like me, but taller and 
larger? Has she beautiful feet and hands, 
and does she like admiration ?" 

"You have drawn her to the life!" ex- 
claimed Sir John. ''Who Is she?" 

"Rossitur!" and Madame de LouvaIn 


clasped her hands together theatrically. " She 
passed herself off for me and took you all in ! 
Oh ! The cunning, wicked creature ! And I 
trusted her so completely ! Victor — do you 
hear ?" 

'' But I do not understand it all now," said 
Sir John. '' I have your letter by me in 
which you say you had quarrelled with 
Rossitur, and that she had left you ! There 
is not a word in it, or in any letter of yours, 
about your marriage." 

'' Oh, it is only part of the trick !" cried 
Madame de Louvain. *' But let me try and 
explain to you. It was Rossitur who always 
wrote my letters to England after poor Jack 
died ; she wrote so well and so easily, and it 
was such hard work to me, that I let her do 
it. When we came to Italy, and I met my 
dearest Victor, and his kind mother and sister, 
and I began to feel happy again, I let Ros- 
situr continue to write my letters to you. I 
did not know how to say what I wished to 


tell you. I thought you would be angry 
with me for marrying again, so, when I was 
engaged, I told Rossitur to write a very nice 
long letter for me. She was to tell you that I 
did not expect you to give me any of the 
money you settled upon me when I married 
poor dear Jack, and that you were to have 
the boy ; and I asked her to explain that I 
was to be married quietly in Naples, and 
that she was to take Jacky to England, with 
her own child, and leave him here with you. 
I wanted her to leave her boy with her own 
people at Stillingfort, and to come back to 
me, but she refused ; said she was tired of 
being in service. I was vexed with her, as I 
thought she was ungrateful, and we had a 
little quarrel, but we were soon friends again, 
and I gave her a very handsome present of 
money. I was surprised you did not write 
when you heard of my intended marriage ; 
but Rossitur said she was sure you were very 
angry, and she advised me to take no notice. 


Then Victor and I were married, and when 
our honeymoon was over, I saw Rossltur off 
to England with the children — while we 
were away she stayed at Sorrento — and 
soon after she arrived, she wrote to me to 
say — I can show you her letter — that she 
had left your grandson at the Chase, and 
that you were so very angry with me she 
advised me not to write any more, as my 
letters would be returned. I took her advice, 
but I have been thinking a good deal about 
my little son lately, and Victor, who is always 
kind, proposed an excursion to England. He 
said if you refused to see me we could go 
back again. But you knew we were coming, 
for I wrote to you from Paris ; you should 
have had the letter last night or this 

" I have had no letter from you," Sir 
John answered. " You saw how surprised I 
was to see you." 

"Was it possible for the false Mrs. John 


Erskine to get hold of the letter and keep It 
from you ?" de Lou vain asked. 

" No — no ; I thnik not. Stay! By Jove, 
you are right ! She always opened the letter- 
bag. Yes ; that is it ; she got your letter 
— recognised your writing, of course ; and 
this sick friend of hers in town was Invented 

to enable her to get away. But " and 

as he stopped his face grew very grave. He 
was thinking of Walter Duncombe. 

" Can you tell me if Rossitur's husband 
George Pottinger, is alive or dead ?" asked 
Madame de Louvain. "He was out of his 

Sir John laughed. " Things are beginning 
to look a little clearer," he said. " Pottinger 
is alive, and he was lately discharged as 
cured from the asylum. He found me out 
in London ; I thought him a decent civil 
sort of fellow, and I engaged him as my 
valet. But that cunning woman I took for 
my poor boy's widow would not let him 


come ; she said he would go out of his mind 
again before long, and that in his mad fits he 
always took her for his wife. Of course I 
believed her, and broke my engagement with 
Pottinger ; but he came down here to try 
and get some news of his wife. I got rid of 
him with some trouble, but my carriage with 
Mrs. Pottinger in it — she had been to a 
garden-party as Mrs. John Erskine — passed 
him on the road, and he came rushing back 
to me, like a maniac as we all said, to tell me 
he had tracked his wife into this house. The 
next day — it shows what courage she has — 
she saw him alone. He got furiously excited, 
she told me, and, as he had always done 
when his brain was affected, took her for his 
wife. Of course I had no suspicion, not the 
very slightest ; although, when Pottinger saw 
the child — he was so anxious to see his poor 
young master's boy, that I had him down — 
he declared It was his. And good heavens !" 
cried Sir John, with a sudden and violent 


Stamp of his foot, ** what if he Is right 
after all ? I never thought of that until this 
moment. Oh ! this makes the thing a million 
times worse ! Suppose that infamous woman 
imposed her own child upon me as my 
grandson ? It was worse than imposing 
herself. Oh, sir !" he added, addressing 
de Louvain, " your wife has a great deal 
to answer for. She trusted that woman too 

Madame burst into tears. " But how 
could I tell she was so wicked ?" she sobbed. 

" Sir John, my wife is not as much to 
blame as you think, and when you are more 
calm you will be just to her," de Louvain 
said. ''The first thing we have to do is to- 
find this woman Rossitur, and make her con- 
fess about the children ; if she brought her 
boy here, she must know what has become of 
your grandson." 

'' But how can I be sure that she tells the 
truth ?" cried Sir John. " And where are we 


to find her now ? You do not know one 
half the complications. I believe she and a 
neighbour of ours, Walter Duncombe, have 
planned to run away together." 

''Walter Duncombe!" almost screamed 
Madame de Lou vain. "If he saw her he 
recognised her! Of that I am sure." 

"Then he has behaved like a double-dyed 
scoundrel to me !" cried poor Sir John, who 
was now hoarse with passion. "How they 
fooled me, the pair of them ! I never refused 
that woman anything ! Nothing was too 
good for her, and all the time she was your 
maid Rossitur, George Pottinger's wife ! I 
can never hold my head up in the county 
again ! Now I understand why she would 
not meet Arthur Filmer ! She got a bad 
fainting fit, and frightened me out of my wits 
when she knew he was coming to my house, 
and we left London at a few hours' notice, 
she was supposed to be so unwell from over 
fatigue ! But Duncombe — I can't forgive 


him ! He must have been in the plot all 

"Walter Duncombe was in love with her 
in India! It was poor dear Jack who kept 
him from marrying her. But dear Sir 
John " 

''Do not call me 'dear Sir John!'" he 
interrupted, furiously. " I think I can hear 
he7% and see her too, when you say it, for you 
certainly are very like one another in face !" 
he added, half-spitefully. 

De Louvain made a deprecatory gesture 
with his hands, and shrugged his shoulders. 

" I was going to say," Madame went on, 
"that I can tell at once whether the child 
Rossitur brought here is my boy or not." 

" But you cannot tell me where to find my 

grandson, if this is Mrs. Pottinger's " 

The furious pull he gave to the bell-handle 
drowned the last word. . 

Madame de Louvain could not be positive 
that the child was Georgy Pottinger, but she 


was quite positive that he was not her Jacky. 
" He has a tiny little mark — a sort of dint it 
is — on the right temple, just beside the eye," 
she said. '' I could not mistake any other 
child for him ; I should know him anywhere." 
And they were all so much excited and 
perplexed that even Miss Lambton never 
thought of the child at the Rectory ; they 
even forgot for the moment that the false 
Mrs. John had given It as her opinion that 
It was Rossitur's boy ; and the news that 
reached the Chase next morning put even his 
missing grandson out of Sir John's head for 
a time. 


A madman's revenge. 

Poor Sir John spent a miserable night. He 
was a man who detested double-dealing, 
mystification and chicanery of all kinds, and 
he found himself suddenly surrounded by all 
three! It was not possible for him to doubt 
the statement of Madame de Louvain, but 
very grudgingly indeed did he admit that he 
had been grossly deceived by a clever adven- 
turess ! It was the deception that galled him 
so bitterly ; not only had he taken the sham 
Mrs. John Erskine to his heart, but he had 
imposed her as the widow of his son upon 
the society of the county, and to the end of 
his days he would be pitied and laughed at. 
With his usual hospitality, he insisted that 


the de Louvalns should remain as his guests 
for a few days. " You must stay until we 
try to bring you and Rossitur face to face," 
he said, trying to be jocular, but his heart 
was very sore, and he could not yet look 
upon this new Amy, with her French 
husband, as his daughter-in-law. She was 
by no means the same Amy who had been to 
Jack Erskine a somewhat imperious and 
exacting wife. In Victor de Louvain she had 


found her master, but he was a very loving 
one, and one whom she loved ; and she had 
in many respects altered for the better since 
her marriage with him. Miss Lambton 
liked her far better than the exacting lady 
who was already spoken of in whispers as 
*' Rossitur." How familiar that name had 
been to all of them for years. 

While de Louvain and Sir John had a 
long and serious conversation together after 
dinner, the two ladies chatted very amiably 
in the drawing-room. It was a relief to Sir 


John to be alone with the Frenchman ; he 
could indulge In some strong language, and 
relieve his feelings In that way. 

They all breakfasted together the next 
morning ; out of deference to English habits, 
Monsieur and Madame de Louvain came 
down at nine o'clock, and Sir John did his 
best to be genial and agreeable ; but, under 
the circumstances, It was hard work, and 
Madame could talk of nothing but Rossltur's 
misdeeds. Sir John opened his Tz7HeSy 
glanced at the summary, then politely gave 
the paper to de Louvain, who did not want 
it, and unfolded the Daily Telegraph. 

"Hallo!" he said, "What is this?" as his 
eyes fell on a sensational heading in big print. 
" Tragedy at a Railway Station. 

" Desperate Attempt at Murder and 
" Determined Suicide." 

He looked through the account that fol- 
lowed, with a presentiment that it concerned 
him very nearly, and this was what he read : 

VOL. III. t 


" Victoria Station, PImlico, was yesterday, 
soon after six o'clock, the scene of a terrible 
tragedy ! Upon the arrival of the 6-5 train 
from .... a handsome and elegantly- 
dressed young lady, followed by a porter with 
her luggage on a barrow, passed the barrier 
after the great crowd of passengers had 
already gone through. The porter was In 
the act of hailing a cab, and the lady was 
walking leisurely towards the place at which 
it would draw up, when two shots were fired 
at her In rapid succession by a man who Is 
supposed to have travelled In the same train, 
as the ticket collector says he gave up a 
third-class ticket before the lady passed 
through the gate. After the shots were fired 
the victim of this foul attempt staggered a 
few steps and then fell In a pool of blood ! 
A rush was made to secure the assassin, but 
with the rapidity of lightning he discharged 
another chamber of the revolver into his 
mouth and fell dead on the spot ! The 


young lady, whose name has not transpired, 
although, we believe, it is known to the 
police, was conveyed at once to St. Michael's 
Hospital, where she is unconscious and in a 
most precarious condition, part of her jaw 
having been completely shattered by one of 
the bullets." 

" My God, how awful !" cried Sir John, 
as the paper dropped from his hand, and he 
fell back In his chair looking white and 

Miss Lambton ran to him. ''What is it ?" 
she cried, greatly alarmed. "Are you ill?" 

He pulled himself together with a great 
effort. "Look here," he said, "there has 
been an attempt at murder at Victoria 
Station, and I believe the unfortunate 
woman who is shot Is Rossitur. Her train 
was due In Victoria about six o'clock, and 
she is described as young and handsome." 

" But who has done it ?" cried Madame de 


''There was but one person likely to do it; 
her husband — the wretched madman Pottin- 
ger. I beheve now Duncombe was right, 
and he has been working here in the garden 
in disguise." Then Sir John described the 
sudden rush of the man with the beard into 
the train while it was actually in motion, and 
the fancied recognition of him as Pottinger 
by Duncombe. 

'' And have they taken him ?" asked Miss 

" No ; he is dead. He shot himself after 
he fired at her. I wonder where Duncombe 
is. He said he would follow her to town by 
a train that left the Great Centre Bridge 
Junction half- an -hour after she left this 
station. But he is not likely to communicate 
with me if he knows from her, and of course 
he does, that the game is up. What an 
awful thing ! Bless my soul, how quickly 
retribution has followed her ! Poor unhappy 
woman ! I must go to town at once ; the 


police probably know her by this as Mrs. 
John Erskine." 

"We had better accompany you," said de 
Louvain. '' If there is any question of 
identification, my wife may be obliged to 
give evidence." 

" I see a fiy from the station driving up," 
said Miss Lambton. " It is not Walter 
Duncombe, I suppose." 

But the early visitor was a Police Inspec- 
tor, who had come from town to see Sir 
John. In the injured woman's handbag — 
she was carrying it when she was shot — 
some visiting-cards with " Mrs. John Erskine, 
The Chase, Little Centre Bridge," on them 
were foimd. Her linen was marked with 
A. E. ; there were two or three cases found 
upon her containing jewellery, apparently 
valuable. A diamond necklace and pendant 
were undoubtedly genuine, and in the pocket 
of her dress there was an empty envelope, 
with a French stamp effaced, and the Paris 


post-mark, addressed to Sir John Erskine at 
the Chase. 

She was still alive, and she had made 
several efforts to speak, but owing to the 
nature of the wound in her jaw, she could 
not make herself understood. The second 
shot had passed through her arm, breaking 
the bone just above the elbow. 

Sir John put the Inspector in possession of 
the facts related to him by Monsieur and 
Madame de Louvain, and the idea that it was 
Pottinger who had attacked her, was con- 
firmed by the fact that, on examination, it 
was found that the suicide was disguised by a 
large black beard. 

'* If he is her husband, as I suppose, I can 
identify him," said Sir John, ''and also give 
evidence that he was but recently discharged 
from a lunatic asylum." 

The mention of the jewel cases that were 
found on the woman who had so lately passed 
as Mrs. John Erskine, reminded Sir John 


that the valuable Erskine diamonds had 
practically been in her possession since her 
arrival at the Chase. He examined the safe 
in which they were kept in the presence of 
the Inspector, and found that the beautiful 
necklace was missing. 

"The other jewels were presents from 
me," he said, "but the diamonds are heir- 
looms." Then he added to himself, " I hope 
Duncombe did not know she had them." 

Inquiry brought to light Buncombe's 
arrival at Victoria, about half-an-hour or so 
after the tragedy had taken place. " I saw 
the gentleman myself," the Inspector said, 
" but I did not guess he had anything to do 
with her, although he seemed scared, and a 
bit uneasy, too, when he heard that a young 
lady had been fired at and wounded in the 
face. I took no notice of what he did, or 
where he went, for I did not know he knew 

A strong instinct of self-preservation had 


kept Duncombe from betraying to the police 
his acquaintance with the injured woman ; he 
was too late to save her, and It would do no 
good to mix himself up in the affair. But he 
reproached himself bitterly for allowing her 
to make the journey alone, although it was 
. very doubtful that his presence would have 
saved her from the mad vengeance of her 

Pottlnger had discovered, from the con- 
versations he overheard In the garden house, 
that he was not under a delusion when he 
declared that the woman who called herself 
Mrs. John Ersklne was In reality Bella 
Rossitur, his wife ; and he discovered, more- 
over, that she knew she was about to be 
found out, as the real Mrs. Ersklne, now 
Madame de Louvain, was coming to England 
to Introduce herself to Sir John, and to see 
her child, and that flight with Duncombe 
was the only course left to her, as she could 
not make up her mind to confess and take 

A madman's revenge. 281 

the consequences of her imposition. All 
this being made clear, Pottinger, without a 
moment's hesitation, resolved to murder her, 
and then to shoot himself! To the madness 
of his diseased brain was added the madness 
of jealousy, and he had cunning enough to 
lay his plans, and carry them out to the 
bitter end. 

And now he lay dead by his own hand, and 
she, well aware by whom the deed was done 
that had arrested her flight with her lover 
and for ever ruined the beauty of which she 
was so proud, waited in the sharpest agony 
of mind and body for what the slow passage 
of the days would bring. 




Poor Amy de Louvain, the veritable widow 
of young John Erskine, when she came to 
England with her adored Victor, to introduce 
herself to the father of her first husband and 
to see her child, little knew what was before 
her. It was trying and disagreeable enough 
to find that an impostor, in the person of the 
trusted Rossitur, had personated her success- 
fully for some months ; had substituted her 
own son for poor Jack's boy ; had contrived, 
also, to worm her way into Sir John's 
affection and confidence. With a cool head 
and steady hand she played her risky game 
of chance ; scored several tricks, and divided 
the honours, so to speak, every hand ! And 


even now, to continue the metaphor, that she 
had been detected as a cheat, the cards had 
been so skilfully played that those whom she 
had wronged could not blame themselves for 
having trusted her ; there was nothing in her 
conduct calculated to raise suspicion in the 
minds of those who had no reason to suspect ; 
and if Amy de Louvain had not been seized 
with a sudden desire to see her child, the 
imposture would probably not have been 
found out for years. 

Sir John and the de Louvains started early 
for London, and it was only when Mrs. 
Murray walked over to luncheon, and was 
positively stunned when she heard what had 
taken place, that Miss Lambton thought of 
the child picked up by her friend at Victoria 
Station. What more likely than that, in this 
unclaimed little w^aif, Amy de Louvain would 
recognise her son? There was some mark — 
Miss Lambton could not remember what it 
was — by which she said she should know him. 


Sir John had a trying day before him in 
town. His first duty was to identify the body 
of the man who had attempted the murder 
and then shot himself; and he had, as he 
expected, no difficulty In recognising the 
unfortunate Pottinger. He was then sum- 
moned to attend the inquest ; the murderer 
and his victim being both known to him, his 
evidence was required. 

But his visit to St. Michael's Hospital to 
identify Pottinger's victim who was lying 
there, to all appearance unconscious, with 
her face shattered and her arm broken, was 
the most trying and painful duty that had 
ever fallen to Sir John's lot. He was accom- 
panied by his daughter-in-law, and they went 
in together to the ward where Rossltur was 
lying. The heart of the kind old man was 
filled with the deepest compassion as he 
looked at the maimed and disfigured creature 
whom he had so lately seen in the pride of 
her beauty ! He forgot how she had cheated 


and befooled him ; he forgot that, even as she 
kissed him and said good-bye at the railway 
station, she had already made her plans for 
a disgraceful escape from the consequences of 
her daring impersonation, leaving to him and 
to others the task of unravelling the tangle 
she had so cleverly made. He forgot all 
that ; he remembered only that the hand of 
her maddened husband — the man whom she 
had had the courage to face and defy — had 
struck her down. 

" Yes," he said, and his voice was very low 
and full of compassion, "that is the woman 
who came to the Chase as Mrs. Erskine. 
You can identify her, I suppose, as your 
former maid Rossitur ?'' he added, turning 
to Madame de Louvain. 

"Yes," that lady answered. "She is 
certainly Rossitur ; I could swear to her if 
necessary. How horribly she seems to be 
hurt ; but really, when I think of what " 

" Oh, pray do not speak of it here," 


interrupted Sir John, Imploringly. '' Her 
punishment Is horrible, too ! I pity her 
from the bottom of my heart." 

The doctors said she was unconscious, but 
as first one spoke, and then the other, her 
eyes slowly opened, and, with an unmis- 
takable glance of recognition, she turned 
them with an effort, first to the face of 
her late mistress, and then to that of the 
man she had so basely taken in. She tried 
to speak, but could not ; and, with a moan 
of anguish piteous to hear, her eyes closed 

The cover of the letter found In her pocket 
was shown to and Identified by Madame de 
Louvain, and some days later the letter itself 
was picked up at the Chase ; it had fallen 
under the drapery of the toilet-table in the 
room occupied by the pretended Mrs. Erskine, 
and In the confusion of her hurried departure, 
she had not missed it. Of the jewels she 
carried off Sir John claimed the diamond 


necklace only ; the ornaments he had given 
to her he left with her. 

His next task was to try and put an end to 
all the gossip, ill-natured and serious, about 
the affair, that got into the newspapers. 
Not a day passed without the publication of 
some paragraphs upon the " Romantic case 
of imposition in Stoneshire," or the '' Sad 
end of a clever adventuress," or the " Clever 
swindle in Stoneshire." One or two of the 
Illustrated " Penny Dreadfuls " had a sketch 
of the attem.pted murder at the railway 
station, and a long descriptive account, 
headed " The Baronet and the lady's maid." 
In self-defence. Sir John at last wrote a 
succinct account of the whole affair from 
beginning to end, and sent it for publication 
to two or three of the leading journals ; when 
his letter appeared, speculative gossip ceased, 
but he was obliged to read mortifying com- 
ments in the society papers upon his obtuse- 
ness, and sly hints as to the ease with 


which pretty women Impose upon elderly 

Then news came of fighting In Afghanistan 
or Africa, or the death of a Royal Prince or 
Princess, or the sale of a big elephant to an 
American showman, and the '' Baronet and 
the lady's maid " dropped out of sight, and 
were forgotten by the public ; but not for 
months, or even years, at the Chase, or at 
Little Centre Bridge ; and the puzzle and 
uncertainty about the two little boys kept up 
the excitement. 

Madame de Louvain and her husband 
came back to the Chase, In order that the 
former might see Mrs. Murray's \\\.\\^ proteg'e, 
and she was positive that the child was her 
son. There was the dint In the right temple, 
plainly to be seen by everyone except Sir 
John, who could not be got to see It at all. 
But, even setting aside that Infallible clue, was 
not the child— so his mother said — the ''very 
image of his poor dear father ?" Victor said 


SO, and Victor was always right ; while no 
one could mistake the other boy for the child 
of anyone but Rossltur. 

Sir John was obliged to admit the likeness, 
but he would not recognise the waif so 
strangely picked up by chance at the railway 
station as his grandson, unless the unfortu- 
nate Rossltur would admit that she had left 
her mistress's child there. So the little 
fellow, who was called by some Jacky, and 
by others Georgy, was left with Mrs. Murray, 
and the little Imposter remained at the Chase, 
but he was kept out of sight, and Sir John 
asked no questions. 

Victor and Madame de Louvain went to 
London, and stayed there until the uncer- 
tainty was at an end one way or another. 
Sir John telegraphed to his daughter and 
Otway to come home at once — he was 
yearning for Letty ; and at St. Michael's, by 
slow degrees, Rossltur recovered, but with so 
sorely a maimed and disfigured face, that 
VOL. Ill U 


those who had known her before Pottinger's 
murderous attack had some difficulty In 
recognising her. 

Upon her discharge from the hospital, she 
was met by her sister Alice, and taken down 
to Stillingfort ; and Sir John, who in his great 
kindness and noble generosity refused to add 
one iota to the punishment she had already 
suffered, gave instructions that she should 
want for nothing money could supply. And 
when she learned how good and forgiving he 
had been to her, Rossitur's cold, calculating 
heart was filled with something as like 
remorse as it was possible for her to feel ; 
and, in a sudden burst of repentance, she 
resolved to confess everything to him, and, 
as far as possible, repair the wrong she had 
done. So he went to Stillingfort to see her 
at her request, and at her request also, or, 
more properly speaking, at her sister's, the 
child she had passed off as John Erskine's, 
accompanied him. 


'' He is my son," she said in answer to Sir 
John's anxious question, "and I am ready to 
make an affidavit, if necessary ; or, if it will 
satisfy you, that the boy Mrs. Murray found 
In the waiting - room at Victoria is your 
grandson. I left him there, thinking he 
would be sent to the workhouse, and that 
my son would be brought up as your heir." 

Poor Sir John, torn between his horror of 
her daring duplicity and pity for her miser- 
able condition, scarcely knew what reply to 
make. '' I cannot think why you did it," he 
said at last. " Did you not know that some 
day, sooner or later, you would be found 
out ?" 

" I did not think It very likely," she 
answered, " and I liked the excitement of such 
a game of chance. Of course I knew it was 
possible, but I thought Madame de Louvain 
was too indolent and selfish, and cared too 
little for her child, to come to England to 
see him. I was afraid that some day Mr. 


Filmer, or someone who had known me and 
my mistress in India, would recognise me ; 
but I managed to avoid meeting Fihiier in 
London, and I made up my mind not to 
venture there again. My husband I was 
able to silence by saying he was mad ; but I 
ought to have been more cautious about him. 
If I had only suspected that he was about 
the place in disguise watching me, I could 
have got away and baffled him. But he was 
too cunnino- for me, and I am left like this !" 
She clasped her hands with a despairing 
gesture, and then pointed to her disfigured 
face, while a gleam of hatred flashed from 
her eyes. 

'* He is dead," said Sir John, solemnly. 

" Yes," she broke out, "but that makes no 
difference to me nozo, for my life is ruined. 
No one will care for such a hideous creature. 
I may die in a ditch, or starve ; it is all the 

" Not as long as it is in my power to help 


you," said Sir John. "The wrong you did 
to me was great indeed, but the wrong to 
yourself was infinitely greater, and I — I 
should not like you to fall lower. I suppose 
I am right in my supposition that Walter 
Duncombe knew who you were, and that 
you had made up your mind to leave the 
country with him ?" 

'' Yes ; you are quite right. About a 
month after I arrived at the Chase I went 
over to the Hermitage to prepare him to 
find me in Mrs. John Erskine ; I was sure if 
he would not join me in keeping up the 
deception he would not betray me. Miss 
Lambton thought I went to Great Centre 
Bridge to look for Rossitur," and she 
laughed. " Walter wanted me to go through 
the form of marriage with him, as your 
son's widow, and then we were to live 
abroad, as long as there was any chance of 
our being found by Pottinger. But I did not 
trust Duncombe enough for that; as he helped 


me to cheat, he might cheat me himself some 
day. So I refused ; and it was not until I 
was driven into a corner, by hearing that my 
mistress was coming over, that I consented 
to go with him ; it did not very much matter 
what became of me when I was going to be 
found out." 

Sir John was silent, and pained beyond 
expression at her reckless, defiant tone. And 
it was of no use to preach repentance to her 
in her present mood ; he saw but too plainly 
that she was not grieving for her conduct 
in the past, but simply for the loss of that 
beauty which was so cruelly marred for 



That was not quite the end of all. As the 
winter grew darker and more drear, and the 
bare trees in Stillingfort woods shivered in 
the bitter winds, Rossitur took a desperate 
resolve. Not one word, even of condolence 
or sympathy, had she heard from Walter 
Duncombe since the day she said good-bye 
to him at the Little Centre Bridge station. 
He was aware that her deception was dis- 
covered ; but the fact that she was a detected 
imposter would make no difference to him, as 
he had known her as an undetected one for 
so many months. He knew also that her 
husband was dead, and that no obstacle now 
stood between them, and yet he made no 


sign ; and the truth at last forced itself upon 
her unwilling mind, that with her loss of 
beauty his love had died ! Was he the sort 
of man to marry beneath him, if the woman 
to whom he condescended were not possessed 
of extraordinary personal attractions ? Bella 
knew that he was not, but still she longed to 
meet him face to face, and to make him 
confess that he had no intention of allying 
himself with one who was convicted, morally 
if not legally, of one of the most audacious 
frauds of modern times ; and, in addition, 
disfigured almost beyond recognition by a 
pistol bullet ! 

Poor Rossitur ! Instinct revealed to her 
the nature of the man who had professed to 
love her ; or, it may be, she recognised in 
him traits of character akin to her own ; but 
there was a spark of chivalrous good feeling 
in him for which she gave him no credit. It 
is even possible that the idea of good feeling 
In the matter never once occurred to her; she 


more than half- despised Sir John for his 
kindness and forbearance towards her ; she 
had no conception of the noble humane heart 
that gave it birth. 

Duncombe had seen her, although she was 
unaware of the fact. He knew when she 
left the hospital, but he felt that he must see 
her before he committed himself to any action 
concerning her. Rumour told him that the 
injury to her face was one that could not be 
obliterated by any amount of surgical skill 
but still, it was possible that rumour had 
exaggerated, and that a slight scar only 
remained of the wound. 

Accordingly, as soon as he knew where 
she was, he went to Stillingfort to see her. 
But the meeting never took place. By one 
of those curious coincidences that sometimes 
happen, he saw her accidentally, and the 
unhappy creature, being totally unaware of his 
presence, had taken no precaution to conceal 
the ravages of Pottinger's murderous attack. 


To do him justice, Duncombe was shocked 
and saddened by the total destruction of the 
beauty which had always struck him as so 
perfect ; he turned away quite unable to give 
a second look, and in that moment his love 
for her died. Such love dies easily, without 
a struggle. But he felt bound to do some- 
thing for her ; she should not be able to say 
that he was a niggard as well as a scoundrel, 
and a handsome provision for herself and her 
son would go far to reconcile her to her fate. 
He would not remind her, either, that every- 
thing that had happened was her own fault ; 
that she might have left England with him 
weeks ago, and trusted to the chapter of acci- 
dents to aid her in avoiding her mad husband ! 
But she, who saw no Immorality In Imposing 
herself and her son upon Sir John Erskine, 
refused point blank to accept his. Buncombe's, 
protection during the lifetime of Pottlnger, 
and this was the result. But It was always 
the case with women such as she ; up to a 


certain point they had abundance of courage, 
and then, suddenly, they lost their nerve, 
and stumbled at a comparatively insignificant 
obstacle. That was how Buncombe reasoned. 

It is impossible to describe Rossitur's 
feelings as, for the second time, she went 
on foot from the railway station at Great 
Centre Bridge to the Hermitage. It was 
nearly mid-winter now ; but the air was not 
very cold, and the pale sun now and then 
struggled through the clouds. She felt fairly 
strong and well ; the terrible shock her 
system had received was passing away, and 
she felt more buoyant and hopeful, as she 
became accustomed to her altered appearance. 
Just at first, no doubt, Walter would be a 
little shocked. Just at first. Alas! was not 
the first sight what she had to dread ? 

She had a little note in her pocket which 
she meant to send in to him when she 
arrived ; it was just possible that her name 
and her story were known to the servants, so 


she meant, if possible, to avoid giving the 
former. She may have imagined it, but it 
seemed to her that the footman, who answered 
her ring, and showed her into a morning- 
room, in which a cheerful fire was burning, 
looked at her curiously. Could it be that 
everyone who saw her poor maimed face, 
knew^ w^ho she was ? 

But as soon as she heard that Duncombe 
was at home, and knew that her note would 
soon be in his hands, her agitation rose, and 
quickly grew to such a height that she could 
not dwell upon what was thought of her 
appearance by his servants ! Five minutes 
passed rapidly ; five more, more slowly ; the 
quarter was reached, and still she was alone, 
listening for approaching steps. 

They came at last ! The door opened ; 
she stood up, and turned her face a little 
aside ; but it was the footman who came in, 
carrying a tray of refreshments. These he 
arranged on a table beside her, and with the 


announcement that Mr. Duncombe sent his 
compliments, and hoped she would excuse 
him for a few minutes while she took some 
luncheon, the man withdrew. 

Rossitur glanced at the cold game ; the 
preserved meats ; the delicate home-made 
bread, the hot-house fruit, and the different 
kinds of wine ; but she could neither eat nor 
drink. A deadly fear began to creep over 
her ; her nerves, ready now at the slightest 
provocation to assert themselves, began to 
tingle, and she fell back on her chair, white 
and trembling. 

Another quarter-of-an-hour passed, but she 
was still alone ; then she heard a door open, 
and voices. They ceased after a few seconds ; 
the door was shut, and there were steps at 
last. To pour out and drink off a glass of 
wine was the w^ork of a moment ; and the 
colour was coming back to her face when the 
door of the morning-room was opened, and a 
gentleman, a stranger to her, appeared. 


He was a little man, smart and neat in 
fiofure ; middle-agfed, with hair and whiskers 
that were partly gray. His bright eyes 
looked shrewd as well as keen, but there 
was no unkindness in their penetrating 
glance ; in fact, he looked what he was — a 
lawyer of experience ; and he was Walter 
Duncombe's man of business. There was 
no curiosity visible in the look he bent upon 
Rossitur ; but, nevertheless, she was a person 
of whom he had heard a great deal that very 
morning:, and a letter written bv him to her, 
was, at that moment, lying half-finished upon 
the library table. 

*' Mrs. Pottinger, I believe," he said. 

Rossitur was startled by being suddenly 
addressed by that name, but she made a 
movement that implied assent. 

"Will you not sit down?" — she had re- 
ceived him standing, "and," glancing at the 
untouched food, " Mr. Duncombe hoped you 
would have finished luncheon by this." 


" I cannot eat, thank you," she said, **and 
I — I am a little tired of waiting here for Mr. 
Buncombe. I believe he is at home," 

''Well — yes. He was in the house when 
your note was delivered to him ; he and I 
were transacting some business then, but I 
fancy he is out now." 

'' Does that mean that I am not to see 
him ?" she cried. " Does he not wish to see 
me ? Has he sent you to tell me so ?" 

'' No ; he did not send me to tell you so ; 
but, as you ask the questions, I must answer 
them in the affirmative. You are not to see 
him, and he does not wish to see you." 

A low wailing cry of bitter disappointment 
broke from her. " Oh !" she moaned, '' I 
might have known ! I might have known !" 

''That is just what we — my client and I, 
feel about it ; you might have known. But 
I must beg of you, now you are here, to 
compose yourself, and to listen to me while 
I make a short explanation. I am Mr. 


Duncombe's lawyer, and I came here this 
morning at his request, as he wished to 
consult me upon a matter of business con- 
nected with you. It Is not necessary for me 
to go back upon the painful and unfortunate 
circumstances that have lately taken place ; I 
know everything, and I have told Mr. 
Duncombe very plainly what I think of his 
share In the deception that was practised 
upon Sir John Ersklne. However, let that 
pass ; I assure you he feels very deeply and 
acutely for all the suffering you have lately 
endured ; 1 am empowered by him to tell you 

" Please go on," she said, *' I do not want 
to talk of my sufferings to anyone. I want 
to know what Mr. Duncombe Is going to do. 
As you know so much, I suppose you heard 
that he and I were going to be married ; but 
now that half of my face has been carried 
away by a pistol shot, he Is probably not 
very anxious to keep his promise." 


'* What an extremely coarse-minded young 
woman she is," thought the little lawyer to 
himself. ''With the exception of a few 
trifling errors in detail, you have stated the 
case plainly enough, madam," he said aloud. 
'' If I am not misinformed, when your imper- 
sonation of Mrs. John Erskine was on the 
brink of discovery, and you agreed to leave 
England with my client, your " 

''That is enough," she interrupted, "why 
waste time telling me what I know? I 
suppose you are aware that there is now no 
obstacle to my marriage with Mr. Duncombe? 
It was my mad husband George Pottinger, 
who gave me this mark," and she touched 
her cheek, "and he then shot himself." 

" We know the whole terrible story, 
madam ; and nothing could well be more 
awful or more harrowing. My client, as I 
said before, has the deepest pity for you, but 
he does not consider himself bound to you, 

or " 

VOL. in. 


" Tell me the truth," cried Rossltur, and 
she suddenly faced round upon her com- 
panion, and revealed the full extent of the 
terrible injury she had received. " Does he 
know how disfigured I am ? I have not 
seen him since the afternoon of the day it 
happened, months and months ago !" 

'* Mr. Duncombe has seen you," was the 
reply, and I have his assurance that it was 
a shock to him from which he did not 
recover for days." 

She laughed. '' I can quite believe it," 
she said. " I am a most hideous object 
now, and he used to say I was the most 
beautiful woman he had ever seen ! Well, 
I am beaten again, the luck is against me, 
and it is fortunate I am not the kind of 
woman to break my heart because a man 
throws me over! It would have been his 
fate, you may tell him, if the cases had been 
reversed, and he had lost his money as I have 
lost my looks ! And now I may as well go 


back to Stillingfort and take in needlework, 
my last refuge against starvation !" 

'' Pray stay a moment, there is more to be 
said," the lawyer interposed. '' My client 
fully acknowledges that you have a claim 
upon him for compensation, although you 
would not be able to enforce it legally ; and I 
came here this morning to receive his instruc- 
tions for the settlement upon you, for life, of 
the sum of five hundred per annum, and in 
case you predecease your son, of one hundred 
and fifty to him for his life. Neither of you 
is to have any power over the principal, and 
your annuity will die with you ; your son's 
with him. I am further empowered to hand 
you this cheque for the quarter beginning the 
first of October last, and you will oblige me 
with your receipt for the same." 

With wide - open eyes and parted lips, 
Rossitur took the cheque, and turned it over 
and over as if in some doubt as to its reality. 
There was no sentiment or romance in her 


mind regarding Duncombe to make it im- 
possible for her to accept money from him, 
and she took it willingly, greedily ; surprised, 
but not touched, by the munificence of the 
gift. But the place of such love as she felt 
for him is admirably filled by £ s. d. 

*' You want my receipt?" she said, as, 
satisfied that the cheque was genuine, she 
put it In her purse. "Where can I find a 
pen and Ink ?" 

" How did she take it T was Duncombe's 
eager question when he and his adviser met 
again. " She did not faint or cry, I hope ?" 

" Neither the one nor the other. She 
turned the cheque over and over ; looked 
what bank It was on, and then wrote out 
a receipt. And there it is for you, duly 
stamped and signed." 

Duncombe snatched the paper and threw 
it Into the fire. "It seems to me that she 
and I need not waste pity on one another," 
he said, bitterly. "We are well matched." 



Many years have passed since that afternoon. 
The Hermitage was shut up for a long time, 
and Buncombe Hved abroad. Then he married 
a charming girl, and came back to Stoneshire, 
but no notice was ever taken of him or his 
wife by the family at the Chase. 

Rossitur did not live long to enjoy her 
annuity ; her health failed rapidly, and she 
died in about three years. Her son, aged 
then about six, was claimed by some relations 
of his father's, but his career as he grew up 
was not creditable or successful. He in- 
herited his uncle's talent for music ; but he 
was vain, idle and wholly without stability, 
and he finally enlisted in a Dragoon regiment 


and joined the band. By his friends and 
comrades he was always called '' Gentleman 
George," because, with his life annuity from 
Duncombe, he was richer than they, but his 
money was far more of a curse than a blessing 
to him. With the power allowed to the 
story-teller of looking forward, we have 
anticipated his fate ; for his contemporary, 
young Jacky Erskine, a handsome lad of 
sixteen, is still at Eton. The likeness to his 
dead father is so strong that Sir John has 
long ceased to doubt his identity, even with- 
out the evidence of the dint upon his temple 
upon which his mother laid so much stress. 

His half-brother, little Victor Gustave de 
Louvain, is at Eton too, and he and his 
sisters, pretty, dainty little French maidens, 
and a small brother, Gustave Victor — Amy 
called both her boys after her husband, with 
the position of the names reversed — are very 
often at the Chase in holiday time, for their 
father and mother pay an annual visit to 

FINIS. 311 

Stoneshire. Kind Sir John has room in his 
large warm heart for all of them, and 
Monsieur de Louvain is a special favourite 
of his. The real Amy was the only one of 
the family to whom he did not cordially 
attach himself; whether it was that her 
appearance and her name recalled too vividly 
the daring imposter who had so cleverly 
tricked him, and for whose miserable fate 
he felt such genuine compassion, or that 
there was something repulsive to him in the 
woman who had not cared enough about his 
dead son to remain his widow, even for a 
twelve month, it is impossible to say. 

And yet Amy de Louvain was a more 
really attractive and lovable woman than 
Amy Erskine had ever been. Her genuine 
attachment to her second husband and her 
children had awakened and developed the 
best traits in her character ; love had con- 
quered selfishness, and she seemed but to 
live for her beloved Victor. And it is quite 


possible, also, that the removal of the baneful 
influence of the artful and unprincipled Rossi- 
tur, which had been so freely exercised upon 
her at her most impressionable age, had had 
an excellent effect upon her character. 

A merry houseful gathers at the Chase in 
the Midsummer holidays, for the Otways and 
their children come down to join the party 
from France. Letty's eldest son is the boy- 
lover of little Adele de Louvain, and her tiny 
twin girls — called by their father "Fire and 
Smoke," not after the celebrated ponies, now 
long superannuated, but because he says you 
can never have one without the other — are 
the pride and joy of their old grandfather's 
heart. His sensitive conscience smites him 
in secret for the way in which he allowed his 
sweet Letty to be supplanted by the false 
Mrs. John, and also for the way he himself 
treated her from the moment the pretended 
widow arrived at the Chase ; and he now, 
by lavishing affection upon her and her 

FINIS. 313 

children, tries to atone for those months of 

In the whole of England there is not a 
happier husband or a prouder father than 
Otway, and Letty is under the blissful illu- 
sion that such another man does not exist. 
She is also under the delusion that she is the 
most dutiful and submissive of wives, whereas, 
as a fact, Otway has relapsed into the old 
half-slavish devotion of the woman from 
whom neither heart nor fancy ever for one 
moment strayed, from the day he saw her 
for the first time driving her ponies through 
the High Street of Little Centre Bridge. 
But, indeed, each is so anxious to give way 
to the other, that it is impossible to say who 
is the leading spirit of the house. 

Charles Rossitur lived and flourished in 
his Australian home ; and after an absence of 
one - and - twenty years he paid a visit to 
England, accompanied by his wife and chil- 
dren. His only son — an unusually clever lad 


of nineteen, with a mathematical brain and a 
very decided bent towards scientific research 
— went to Cambridge ; became speedily noted 
there as a hard worker ; and, once more 
looking forward with the author's prescience, 
we see him Fellow of his College ; and, when 
his honest father's hair is grey, young Rossi- 
tur. Professor of Comparative Anatomy, is a 
well-known man in the scientific world. His 
two sisters — good, womanly women, like their 
mother — marry happily and have no history. 
What a flood of recollections, painful and 
sweet, broke upon Charles Rossitur, as he 
climbed the old familiar stairs that led to the 
organ - loft of Stillingfort Church, and sat 
down before the instrument he had so often 
played on when a boy ! On the Sunday 
following his arrival at his old home, he was 
standing with his wife, at a little distance from 
the lych gate, when the Stillingfort carriage 
drove up, and out of it stepped a tall, 
strikingly handsome, and rather showily- 

FINIS. 315 

dressed woman. She was followed first by 
a pretty bright-looking girl of about sixteen, 
and then by a tall, thin old man. Looking 
neither to the right nor left, Lady Judith 
Milbanke passed up the path, her fair young 
daughter by her side now, and her husband 
following in her wake, as he had done ever 
since the day she became his wife. 

As the congregation filed out of church 
after the service, the beautiful and solemn 
strains of ''He shall feed His Flock" rose 
from the organ-loft, and Lady Judith started 
and looked up, as she had done on her 
wedding-day, and a flush rose to her face. 

" Who plays the organ to-day ?" she 
inquired of the pew opener who was in the 
porch as she passed. 

" Mr. Rossitur from Australia, my lady. 
He arrived in Stillingfort last week, and he 
asked if he might play the congregation out 
this morning." 

Pretty Sophie Milbanke saw her mother's 


handsome brow contract as If in pain, but 
she did not connect the sudden change in 
the expression of that usually impassive face 
with the name she had just heard for the first 

When everyone had left, Rossitur and his 
wife emero^ed from the little door that led to 


the organ-loft. " Come this way," he said. 
*' I want to see poor Bella's grave. What a 
strange fancy it was of hers," he continued, 
as they reached the spot, to have those words 
put on the headstone. 

"What are they?" said Ellen, "I have 
been trying to make them out." 

At the bottom of the plain stone that stood 
at the head of Rossitur's grave, was engraved 
in old English characters — 

"%iU ii a (^amf of CJianre." 

"No," he said, "it is not chance. W^e 
make our lives or mar them, to please our- 
selves and to gratify our own desires." 










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" Mr. Clark Russell is at his best in ' The Golden Hope,' which means that this 
book of his is one of the finest books of its kind in our language."— .4cacfemy. 

A HOUSE PARTY. By Ouida. {Second Edition.) 

1 vol. crown 8vo. 6s. 
" The sketches of character are hit off with accuracy of observation and with a 
firm and clear outline." — Daily Telegraph. 

ON THE SCENT. By Lady Margaret Majendie, 

Author of 'Dita,' 'Once More,' ' Sisters-in-Law,' &c. 1 vol. 
crown 8vo. 6s. 
"A bright and wholesome story."— Si. James's Gazette. 




A Novel. By Beatrice Whitby, 3 vols. 


George Halse, Author of ' Weeping Ferry,' &c. 2 vols. 

BARCALDINE. By Vere Clavering, Author of 

' A Modern Delilah.' 3 vols. 

A GAME OF C H ANCE. By Ella Curtis (Shirley 

Smith), Author of " The Favourite of Fortune," &c. 3 vols. 
"'A Game of Chance' is a good novel, and one which we doubt not will be 
very popular."— i/ferary World. 

VIOLET VYVIAN, M.F.H. By May Crommelin. 

Author of " Queenie," and J. Moray Brown, Author of " Shikar 
Sketches." 3 vols. 
"Between them, these authors in double harness have produced an uncom- 
monly good mixture of sport and love-making."— /S'^ James's Gazette. 

RESTITUTION. By Anne Beale, Author of * Fay 

Arlington,' ' The Pennant Family,' ' Squire Lisle's Bequest,' &c. 
3 vols. 
"Miss Beale excels in pictures of still life, and the portraits of the old ladies of 
'Roselands' shew her to possess observation and a sense of humour." Post 


THE Life of a Jacobite's Daughter. By M. E. Le Clerc. 2 vols. 
" A simple, natural, credible romance charged with the colour of the time, and 
satisfying the mind of a thoughtful reader." — Athenceum. 


Lynn Linton, Author of 'Patricia Kemball,' 'Paston Carew,' 

' lone,' &c. 3 vols. 
"It is scarcely necessary to sign 'Through the Long Night,' for the practised 
pen of Mrs. Lynn Linton stands revealed on every page of it. It is like so many 
of its predecessors, hard and bright, full of entertaining reflection and brisk 
development of -plot"— Saturday Review. 

DORINDA, By the Countess of Munster. 3 vols. 

"We shall await with pleasant expectation further contributions to contem- 
porary fictional literature from the unquestionably clever author of ' Dorinda,' " — 
Jtaily Telegraph. 

HUGH ERRINGTON. By Gertrude Forde, Author 

of ' In the Old Palazzo,' ' Driven before the Storm,' &c. 3 vols. 
" The story is pleasantly told, and we think it will add to the authoress's popu- 
larity." — Literary World. 


Robinson, Author of ' Grandmother's Money,' &c. 3 vols. 
"The plot of this story is admirably constructed, and its secret so carefully 
concealed that the reader most familiar with the surprises of the novelist will be 
quite taken aback when he discovers who the real murderer of Drusilla Linfold 
is .... It is one of the most ' gritty' novels that have been published for a long 
time." — Academy. 

A DAUGHTER OF DIVES. By Leith Derwent, 

Author of ' Circe's Lovers,' ' King Lazarus,' &c. 3 vols. 
"Readers will find Mr. Leith Derwent's plot interesting, exciting, and original, 
and worked out with considerable acquaintance of peoples and cUmea."-'Ficcadilly. 





By the Author of ' Molly Bawn,' ' Phyllis,' ' Airy Fairy 
Lilian,' ' Lady Branksmere,' Etc. 

NINETTE: An Idyll of Provence. 

By the Author of ' Vera,' * Blue Roses,' ' The Maritime Alps 
and their Seaboard,' Etc. 


By Jessie Fothergill, Author of ' Kith and Kin,' ' The 
First Violin,' ' Probation,' Etc. 

By W. Clark Russell, Author of ^ A Sea Queen,' ' The 
"Wreck of the Grosvenor,' Etc. 


By Lady IMargaret Majendie, Author of ' Dita,' ' Once 
More,' ' Sisters-in-Law,' Etc. 


By the Author of ' John Halifax, Gentleman,' ' A Life for a 
Life,' 'Christian's Mistake,' Etc. 


By Mrs. Forrester, Author of ' Omnia Vanitas,' ' Viva, ' 
'Mignon,' 'Dolores,' 'Rhona,' Etc. 

SOPHY : or the Adventures of a Savage. 

By Violet Fane, Author of ' Denzil Place,' ' Anthony 
Barrington,' Etc. 


By OuiDA, Author of 'Under Two Flags,' *Puck,' 
'Othmar,' Etc. 

OMNIA VANITAS : A Tale of Society. 

By Mrs. Forrester, Author of ' My Lord and My Lady,' 
'Viva,' 'Mignon,' Etc. 


By Barbara Lake. 


By the Author of 'John Halifax, Gentleman,' 'His Little 
Mother,' ' A Life for a Life,' Etc. 


By the Right Hon. A. J. B. Beresford-Hope, Author of 
< Strictly Tied Up,' Etc. 




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